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Archive for the ‘Dinners This Week’ Category

Carla is off school and so I am taking the opportunity to make challah for the first time ever. 

We also may have houseguests, for a week! They are escaping the hurricane, and I am glad we can offer them a refuge, but also I am spinning a little at the thought of it, especially because plans are still up in the air! And then once they leave, I have a few days to finalize birthday plans for my husband and his sister, and then our other houseguests arrive (we’ve planned to have the latter houseguests for several months now)! 

It is Very Challenging to plan dinners when a) we are still trying to figure out how best to get dinner on the table AND attend all of Carla’s extracurriculars and b) now we might have two extra mouths to feed! Plus, I am still extremely busy and I don’t have time to go to the grocery store more than once this week so I am going once and hoping for the best! 

Is it almost October! I feel EXTREMELY all capsy / exclamation pointy right now!

Dinners for the Week of September 26-October 1

  • Guinness Beef Stew with Salad and Challah: Is Guinness beef stew a traditional Rosh Hashanah food? I doubt it but also it’s as close to brisket as I’m willing to get and I am Very Tired of chicken right now. The salad will have apples and pomegranate seeds (per Carla’s request; she wants to buy a whole pomegranate), but I haven’t figured out the dressing yet. Carla has also requested apple crisp for dessert. We’ll be cooking all day! 
  • Butternut Squash Soup: Will there be leftover salad and challah to eat with this soup? I hope so! 
  • Basil-Parmesan Crusted Salmon with Creamed Spinach: I have never made creamed spinach before! It may be a disaster! But my mother-in-law loves it, so I’m going to try!
  • Oven Roasted Chicken Shawarma with Broccoli and Couscous: We haven’t had this in awhile, and it’s so flavorful I think I (personally) can get past the chicken thing. 
  • Tacos: I literally cannot think of anything else, so tacos it is!

What’s making you feel all-capsy / exclamation point-y today? Are the hurricanes affecting you in any way? (If so, I hope you and your loved ones are safe and sound.) (Also, shana tova and happy New Year, to those who celebrate!)

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First, I feel duty-bound to inform you that last week’s spinach artichoke chicken was a bust. I don’t exactly know why it was a bust, but it was. 

The spinach artichoke dip or sauce or whatever you want to call the element containing the creamy spinachy artichokey goodness was quite delicious. But the chicken… well, it suffered, and the whole dish suffered in empathy. I made enough to have leftovers, but when it came time to reheat the leftovers and eat them, I was filled with such revulsion I ended up a) making fish tacos with frozen fish sticks one night and b) ordering Chick-fil-A another night. And then I ended up throwing out the rest, which made me feel extremely guilty and wasteful. (I did scrape off the rest of the spinach artichoke element and ate it by itself; it was yummy.)

The other issue – besides the chicken, which was very tough? and also didn’t really seem to complement the sauce somehow? even though chicken is so neutral I have no idea how this is possible? – was that some of the artichoke hearts were… inedible. So that you would be eating along and then all of a sudden you realized you had been chewing for ten thousand years on a particular leaf. That was wildly unpleasant. I used the frozen artichoke hearts in a bag from Trader Joe’s and maybe that was the issue. It really kind of put me off of artichokes, though, and those have always been such a treat. 

Since I raised the issue of extracurriculars in my Dinners This Week post last week, I also feel duty-bound to update you. We had our first (nearly) full week of extracurriculars and we survived. It was rough going though. Although it was also a Call Week and it was also a week that Carla was recovering from a nasty respiratory thing that resulted in a lot of coughing, so she and I didn’t get a lot of sleep. 

This week has to be better, right?

I am also experiencing that free-falling panic that often accompanies September, which only just started and yet is also somehow two-thirds done. I have several freelance projects all due at once and then another one coming up in a couple of weeks; I have a big volunteer event looming in the near-distance and preparations and meetings have begun for that; we just had two family birthdays and two more are coming up early next month and one more after that; I am finally getting the ceiling repaired so we’ll have workers taking over our kitchen for a bit; then there are ALL the fall holidays one right after another and I feel as though I am already behind. Plus, in that time my husband and I have a pre-planned mini-getaway and I am trying to figure out if we can go visit my sister-in-law to see a performance she’s in even though the dates we could possibly make that work are the single weekend in between the big volunteer event and Thanksgiving. I don’t mean to complain, because it is all good stuff. It is just A Lot and it all stresses me out. 

I did buy my husband one of his birthday gifts already, so there’s that. But the rest of the uncompleted tasks are in a big, teetering stack and I don’t know what to grab first because everything is going to come toppling down on my head. 

Let’s think about food!  

I did not make lentil soup last week. The weather went from cool and rainy to 80+ degrees and sunny, and hearty soups no longer sounded appealing. I am back in Salad Mode, at least until I remember how much work salads are to put together. 

Dinners for the Week of September 19-September 25

  • Greek Marinated Chicken with Something Green, Probably Zucchini: I saw this on Instagram and immediately wanted to try it. In the Instagram video, Laura Vitale simply combines all of the marinade ingredients in a blender and blends them together, which is a relief because “use a mortar and pestle” is otherwise a reason for me to skip a recipe entirely.
  • Greek Farro Salad: I am feeling really into farro right now? I will make an extra couple of chicken breasts on Greek Marinated Chicken night so that we can have this salad.
  • Fall Chopped Salad with Some Sort of Protein: Another salad, and another Instagram find, this time from Healthy Girl Kitchen. Her recipes are vegan and I am not vegan, so there will be a little variation in the way I make my salad. For instance, I might add shrimp? Also, I don’t have any butternut squash on hand, so I may skip that part. I absolutely HATE chopping butternut squash – they are so hard and I am always afraid I will chop my hand off with the knife, or that I will send a shard of squash straight through the window (they tend to fling themselves away from the knife, when I can get it through the rind). My grocery store sells pre-cubed squash but one package was $5.49 and, while I appreciate how much labor is required to cube that squash, $5.49 is too much for me to pay for what is likely to be my least favorite part of the salad. I suppose I could look for frozen cubed butternut squash but I didn’t and I am not eager to return to my grocery store anytime soon. Last time I went I FORGOT TO WEAR A MASK and I am still reeling from that. Like… WHAT? I have worn a mask in a grocery store for TWO YEARS at this point, how did I just… forget?!?!?!
  • Tacos: ** Alert, alert: very quick weight loss talk ** The thing about tacos is that I love them with my whole heart. I want to put them on the menu because they are easy and everyone loves them, and because they SHOULD produce enough leftovers for a second night. However. I tend to overeat tacos. It’s as though you put a taco in front of me, and suddenly my body is certain this is the last time I will ever have access to a taco, and so I eat more tacos than any person should eat. I have a fond memory of being invited over to my schoolbus driver’s house when I was in elementary school, along with all the other kids on her route, for a taco night. (Yes, I suspect this is a little unusual, and yet my parents okayed it as did other parents of other children. Small town life, I guess.) And I ate TWELVE TACOS. As an elementary school student. Please understand that I do not eat twelve tacos when I make them at home, that was a one-time feat of extraordinary stomach stretchiness, but I do really, really like tacos. For most of my life, I have just… eaten however many tacos I want. But that’s not in line with trying to lose weight. I think it is reasonable to eat tacos, but that it is also reasonable to not eat ALL the tacos. So I am trying very hard to tell myself that just because things like tacos exist in my house right now, doesn’t mean I need to eat them. And likewise, that just because I am not eating tacos now does not mean I cannot eat them later. (This point is to prevent me from scarfing down leftover tacos for lunch, which I usually do as well.) Furthermore, I am not going to die if I only eat two tacos. I’m just not. (I am being hyperbolic; I never feel like I am going to die by restricting myself to X tacos. But I do feel a deep, deep longing for more.) Anyway. I am going to put tacos on the meal plan for TWO NIGHTS and ZERO lunches and it is going to happen.

Do any of these meals seem particularly in line with “easy” or “quick” (aside from the tacos)? No, not especially. So we’ll see how quickly it all falls apart. 

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Football season is back, baby! It’s super problematic and fills me with conflict and yet I just can’t quit it! My husband and I enjoyed a luxurious afternoon watching our team win yesterday and sampling some Octoberfest beers, all from the comfort of our living room. Carla made herself a couch out of blankets and the cushions from the actual couch, and sat there through the whole game. She was originally very excited about football, but then realized after only a few minutes that she finds it quite boring. Well. It took me many decades before I learned how to enjoy it, so I get it. She watched a few shows on her iPad, then started doing a “research project” on her computer that seems to involve googling photos of animals and pasting the photos into a google doc. There may be an element of alphabetization at play. (“Mommy, Daddy, what’s an animal that starts with a G? All I can think of is ‘gnu.’”) Delightful.

We’ve been having fallish weather, which is pleasant. And makes me crave all the soups and stews and hearty foods. We made impromptu chili last night, which was delicious, and which means we have leftovers for dinner tonight. 

This week also marks the start of all of Carla’s after school activities. To be fair, we started one activity a little more than a month ago, and then there was a week of tryouts for the sport she’s doing. But the real, FULL schedule begins this week. (Technically, it’s not “full” yet. We will add a second Monday activity in late October as part of her music lessons. I am apprehensive about that one, because it means Carla will need to eat dinner in the car as we drive from one activity to another.)  

I did after-school activities as a kid – piano and gymnastics starting when I was in elementary school – and I remember dinners being tricky. Well, they were also wonderful because I had a sanctioned reason to eat fast food; my parents both worked right up until the time of the activities, and our house was too far out of town for us to go home for dinner. I have no recollection of how I got from school to my parents’ offices. But I do remember fighting with my brother over whether we were going to get tacos or McDonalds for dinner, and then eating whatever we’d decided on at my father’s paper-cluttered desk while he finished seeing patients and dictating notes. This was the time before smart phones and iPads, too, so I am not sure what we did while we waited. Looked through old medical journals and bickered, probably.

I don’t remember feeling overscheduled when I was a kid. But until high school (when I still did piano, but also added debate, cheerleading, individual voice lessons, and a capella group practice), I had two, maybe three activities spanning two or maybe three nights a week. Carla is going to have something every single day. Yikes. She and my husband and I talked at great length about the scheduling and the time commitment, and I am hopeful that it won’t be too overwhelming. Carla doesn’t really have homework yet, so her only requirements at home are playing her instrument, reading for 15 minutes, and keeping her room and play areas tidy. And even though she’s doing something every night, she really only has three activities. (Sport: 3 nights a week. Instrument: 2 nights a week. School activity: 2 afternoons a week.) And she is SO excited about all of them. 

She’s a very busy, active kid, so I don’t necessarily worry that much about her being overstimulated or tired. My main worry is that she won’t feel like she has any time to play, which is really so important for kids. But she will be able to come home after school three days a week and play a bit before her sports practice. Plus, her weekends aren’t terribly crowded. Well. I forgot about Girl Scouts. She will have Scout meetings once a month. But that’s not too bad. And then there’s skiing, but that doesn’t start until January. 

Well. We’ll see how it goes. If it’s impossible, or she’s too exhausted, we will apologize profusely and back out of one of the activities. 

Did you do after-school activities when you were a kid? Did you feel overscheduled? If you are a parent, what is/was it like for your kiddo/s? Do you think Carla and I are nutso for doing this to ourselves on purpose?

With all these activities, I am back to planning super easy meals with plenty of leftovers. Here’s what’s on the agenda for this week:

Dinners for the Week of September 12-19

  • Leftover Chili: This reminds me that I have never posted my chili recipe. It’s very good. I make it with ground beef and beans, but it’s very adaptable to be vegetarian or to accommodate alternate types of ground meat or your particular preference for beans. 
  • Spinach and Artichoke Chicken: I don’t know why, but I’ve been dreaming about something like this for awhile. I think it should make some good leftovers, and it sounds perfect for fall. 
  • Crockpot BBQ Pork: This was on the menu a couple of weeks ago, but I didn’t execute it for whatever reason. So it’s happening this week. I slather my pork on a baked potato, my husband eats his in a sandwich with coleslaw. The pork tenderloins at Trader Joe’s were teensy, but I think I can make this stretch to two nights anyway.
  • Lentil Soup: I haven’t made lentil soup in a good long while, but it sounds really yummy. I got pre-made mirepoix from Trader Joe’s, which makes this meal very simple to put together. Perhaps I will also make a loaf of miracle no-knead bread to go along with it. I’ll make a nice big pot, which should make enough for another night of dinners and maybe even a lunch or two.

Are you having fall weather in your neck of the woods? Are you a football fan? Any fall meals on the docket for you this week?

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Happy Labor Day to my US readers! 

Our houseguests leave later this week and my husband and I are going to cut waaaaayyyy back on the Vacation Eating that we tend to do when houseguests are around. They are cocktails people, as well, so I always have to wean myself off of my nightly urge to pour myself a gin and tonic.

For Labor Day, which is today, we are grilling burgers and hot dogs. I am making this Mexican street corn salad and my favorite plum torte

This plum torte is best if you make it a day in advance. The plums get plummier overnight.

Dinners for the Week of September 6-September 11

  • Slow Cooker Balsamic Pork TenderloinI think I’ve made this for my in laws before, but oh well. I do this kind of “bowl” style, with a base of brown rice. Then I top mine with the pork (and lots of the balsamic-y liquid it cooks in), caramelized onions, feta, and kalamata olives. My husband skips the olives and adds sundried tomatoes – the soft kind that come in a jar with oil. I think I may also try adding marinated artichoke hearts to the mix, and maybe some of the little mini pitas that come in a bag. Hummus would be good alongside this, too.
  • Chicken and Zucchini Stir Fry: For some reason, I feel weird about making stir fry for guests. There is absolutely ZERO justification for this. But I love stir fry, and it has been a month since I’ve made one, so this will be our first post-houseguests meal. 

While I love my houseguests and while I am so very glad they are here for pleasure this summer and not for medical reasons, I am also relieved that they are heading home. As I mentioned last week, I find it very wearying to balance the needs of even very easy, very un-demanding guests against my own need for quiet and routine. And against my MANY neuroses about food and my kitchen. Sigh. 

If you are enjoying a day off today, I hope it’s lovely and relaxing and safe. If you are going about business as usual, I hope your week is off to a happy, productive start.

Just waiting to be sliced and paired with vanilla ice cream.

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Well, I am thoroughly exhausted after the first week of school. WHY was it so exhausting? I mean, I was shuttling Carla to and from things every day (although my husband took her to her music lesson). But when she is at extracurriculars, I’m just… sitting there? I did go to two social events, which, as we all know, wipes me OUT. But… I was really careful about those. The first one was a one-on-one with a parent I really like, so it wasn’t as stressful/draining. The second social event was with more people, but it was mainly people I know and feel comfortable around, plus I set a timer and stayed for exactly 30 minutes and then skeedaddled. 

By Thursday, though, I was A MESS. Cranky and tired all day. I even tried to take a nap, TWICE, which is a luxury I never allow myself. Of course I was unable to sleep, so then I was even more cranky about “wasting time.” (I tried to repeat Nicole’s mantra that even if I wasn’t sleeping, I was still resting, but I have a long way to go before I achieve Nicole-level Zen. HI NICOLE.) 

The dinner thing, though, is going to have be scaled WAY back. I read all of your advice on my last dinner post with RAPT attention, and the core takeaway was make things as easy as possible. I am interpreting this in two ways:

1. I went to Trader Joe’s and spent an obscene amount of money on Throw Together Meals that are now waiting patiently in my freezer. 

I also really, really want to make leftovers work. I LIKE making dinner, and I don’t want to sacrifice things I WANT to eat just because this is a particularly hectic season of my life. So I am also…

2. Leaning into easy meals that produce leftovers. (This is tricky-ish, because my husband and I are big eaters and often have very little in the way of leftovers… and if we DO have them, I eat them for lunch. So we’ll see how this aspect plays out.)

To recap, the name of the game this week is freezer helpers and easy leftovers meals. Oh. But then there’s the long weekend, and I really REALLY want to make a street corn salad again. So we will have to have Something Fun on the list as well. 

Dinners for the Week of August 29 – September 4 

  • Chickpea BowlsI can double this up and force it to become leftovers, I know I can.
  • Trader Joe’s Sweet Corn, Burrata, & Basil Ravioli with Baked Shrimp: The shrimp isn’t, technically, from Trader Joe’s; it’s from my local grocery store and it has little pats of herb butter in the package. It’s super easy though: thaw and bake. My basil plant is extremely voluminous at the moment, so I will add fresh basil and some lemon zest to the ravs. 
  • Crock Pot BBQ Pork with Coleslaw: An old standby. I like to dump my pork on a baked potato, my husband prefers a BBQ pork sandwich on a King’s Hawaiian bun. I think I can make this stretch to two nights. 
  • Trader Joe’s Mushroom and Spinach Quiche with Some Sort of Green Side: I don’t really know what possessed me to pick these up? Will my husband eat one? Will he consider it enough to count as dinner? Time will tell. It sounded good, it looks easy. Protein, green veggies. 
  • Something Grilled and Mexican Street Corn Salad: Here is where I reveal that my in-laws are staying with us for an undetermined amount of time, and have been around for three weeks already (but not staying with us). So perhaps that also adds to the feeling of exhaustion? Not because I dislike having them around, but because it’s two extra people to try to accommodate? Although they are being EXTREMELY kind about stepping back, especially during the first week of school, to let us do our thing. ANYWAY, I don’t know what the “something grilled” will be, because I want them to have a say. Burgers and hot dogs? Ribs? Chicken? We will just go with the flow on this one. I may also try to make another plum torte before the plum season bypasses us. 

What are you doing for the long weekend, if you are in the US? Wherever you are, what’s your favorite BBQ/picnic food?

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I woke up at 3:00 this morning from a bad dream. In the dream, I was in my childhood home with my husband. Somehow, my horse had gotten into the house, and we were trying to get him out but he was stomping around and bumping into the furniture and getting very riled up and upset. In the confusion, a fire started in the dining room. My husband was yelling, in a very loud monotone, “Fire! Fire! Fire!” That’s when I woke up.

My father is a volunteer fire fighter, and he’d told me yesterday about a recent fire that had devasted a dwelling. Plus, my husband and I started watching a new show this weekend and last night’s episode featured an explosion that resulted in a house going up in flames. So I think it’s safe to say that I had fire on the brain.

Nonetheless, it’s easy for a dream like mine to have the weight of prescience, foreshadowing, and I lay there in the dark house taking long deep breaths through my nose, trying to smell smoke, listening intently for the crackle of flames. I finally got up and did a walk-through of my home, which allowed me to fall back to sleep after an hour or so of troubled thoughts about my loved ones and whether the dream fire had escaped into any of their homes. 

We’re also about to begin the new school year, and, along with it, a new schedule of extracurricular activities. So perhaps my brain was merely venting its feelings of facing the unknown in an uncontrolled way. 

Carla will be doing extracurricular activities FOUR DAYS A WEEK, sometimes five, and that sounds completely bonkers I am aware. But these activities are ones she has been wanting to do for a long time, and we discussed the time commitment at length as a family, and my husband and I think they will be good for her. 

But I am fretting, as usual, about dinner. Dinner is a thing I can – usually – control, in a world that increasingly feels uncontrollable, but I haven’t quite figured out how I will make it work with our new schedule, so I am out of sorts. Horse-in-the-dining-room, fire-breaking-out out of sorts, it seems. 

Some weekdays will be normal – by which I mean Carla has no commitments after school is out. One day each week, she will have an extracurricular commitment that takes place after school but ends before dinner. I suppose on those days, I will need to have everything prepped and ready to go so that we can come home from the activity and I can immediately get food in the oven. Some weekdays, we will have a couple of hours of free time after school, and then the extracurricular activity takes place in the evening. My plan is to feed Carla dinner before we leave for her activity. But then, it will be quite late when we return, and she’ll need to shower and go to bed immediately upon arriving home. (To accommodate the new activities, we’re pushing her bedtime back a teeny bit to 8:30, as long as she still gets adequate rest.) So… when will my husband and I eat? 

(Recall, if you will, that our normal school-year dinner schedule is: Carla eats at 5:30 and is in bed by 7:30-8:00, my husband arrives home between 6:00 and 8:00, my husband and I eat between 8:30-9:00. Thanks, I hate it.) 

I wailed to my husband that we might be eating a lot of Lean Cuisine this year, and he very kindly said that that was FINE, we would make it work. But I don’t really LIKE Lean Cuisine (or its brethren), so I would prefer to find an alternative that isn’t a) fast food or b) nothing or c) me making dinner at nine o’clock at night or d) some variation on Lean Cuisine. (Although all of those are options occasionally, I don’t want to do any of them ALL the time.)

Making meals with built-in leftovers sounds like our best option. That’s why I have chicken fajitas on the menu this week. That way, I can eat before the activity and my husband can eat whenever he gets home. But I’m not great about knowing which meals will produce leftovers, and it seems to me that most of them (not all, but a lot of the ones I love: chicken paprikas! pizza! chili! spaghetti and meat sauce! tacos!) are the more decadent, less I’m Trying to Lose Weight ones that I would prefer to be eating lately. Sigh. Maybe Lean Cuisine is the way to go. 

Dinners for the Week of August 22-28

  • Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas: I can definitely amp up the chicken and veggie quotient to get at least one, maybe more, days of leftovers out of this. 
  • 20 Minute Korean Beef Sesame NoodlesThis doesn’t seem particularly leftovers-friendly, although that could be my own bias against reheating beef, but it sounds really tasty. 

What are some of your favorite Plentiful Leftovers meals? Also, your favorite make-ahead meals, quick meals, one-person-eats-now,-the-other-person-eats-later meals?  

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This is the last week of summer, people! Well, at least in terms of “school begins next week.” I feel simultaneously SO READY and also that grasping panic of “no, no, don’t go yet!” So perhaps this week I will try as hard as possible to Experience Summer as best I can with my child. 

Shall we make some summery meals, to really round out the experience?

Dinners for the Week of August 15-August 21

  • BBQ Ribs and Mexican Street Corn Salad: I have had the separate components of this meal but once this summer, and I am desperate to eat both again. The corn salad is AMAZING, trust me. And this is my go-to ribs recipe. I love it because you cook the ribs in advance, and then quickly caramelize them on the grill when you’re ready to eat. 
  • Balsamic Grilled Chicken with Strawberry SaladThis is my favorite balsamic vinaigrette and it is amazing as a marinade for grilled chicken. I am going to pair the chicken with a salad of arugula, spinach, strawberries, red onions, and goat cheese. And I’m going to sprinkle a little chilled cooked farro and some pistachio nuts on top for texture. 
  • Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Mango Salsa: I don’t have an actual recipe for the mango salsa. I just dice a couple of mangos (two is good for four people, especially if you have another veggie side) and combine it with half a red bell pepper (diced), half a jalapeno (finely diced), about a quarter cup of red onion, and a couple tablespoons of chopped cilantro, and then squeeze a lime over everything. 

And I am dying to make a Plum Torte: This is my favorite summer dessert. It is SO EASY (I just use regular old plums) and it is so, so delicious. Plus, it has fruit in it which means you can eat the leftovers for breakfast.

Okay, that’s not a LOT of things on the menu. Looks like I will be improvising a bit. Something with zucchini, probably. As many things on the grill as I can do. What are you hoping to eat before summer slides into fall?

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It is so hot here. Is it hot where you are? So hot. Carla got invited over to her first ever sleepover this weekend and the child’s parents invited us to come have drinks and wine when we dropped her off, and I was DRIPPING SWEAT the entire time we sat on their beautiful lanai. Just like… sopping wet. I had to use a napkin to blot my face sweat, but I refrained from using it to blot the many other areas where sweat had pooled.

I am not a hot weather person, is what I am saying. I CHOOSE not to live in Florida and so I very much object to living in a sauna. 

Anyway! Let’s talk about dinner! Because the very best thing to do when it is boiling outside is to think about turning on the oven!

Dinners for the Week of August 8-14

What’s on your menu this week?

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I mentioned in my Road Trip! Round Up that I weighed exactly the same amount when I got home as I had when I’d embarked on the trip. Even though I’d gone completely off Keto for the duration of the trip, and even though our dinners consisted of many burgers and beers, and even though I ate many many bags of chips. 

This was so disheartening, Internet. I cannot express how my heart dropped when I saw that number on the scale. I mean, on the one hand, it was pleasant to not have that grit-teethed feeling of needing to start over from scratch. But on the other, more emotional hand, I felt like, “WHAT THE HELL HAVE I BEEN DOING ALL THIS TIME?”

It was already pretty clear that Keto – or my specific brand of low-carb eating – wasn’t working for me anymore. I’d been stalled at the same not-quite-ten-percent-of-my-body-weight weight loss since May, after all. I probably would have done Something about it earlier if we hadn’t been planning this Road Trip. But I have to admit I was hoping that a) things would correct themselves or b) I could buckle down after the Road Trip.

And then when it turned out I didn’t have to be on Keto to maintain my current weight… well, I didn’t get back to it. Instead, I kept eating like I was on a Road Trip. (Plus, I ate ALL the beans. Turns out the food I miss the most when I am doing keto is… beans. Black beans, navy beans, chickpeas. Burritos, tacos, stir fries, soups. ALL THE BEANS.) And now I am back where I was when I started this particular Keto journey in February. UGH UGH UGH. 

I don’t know what to do now. Do I try Keto again? I think if I were really strict with it, it might help. But my husband refuses to follow it strictly, which makes it difficult for me to do so. He is all for doing low carb again, but that wasn’t working for me. I feel like the only two options are 1) Keep going the way I am going, which is unpleasant for many reasons or 2) Start counting calories again, which makes me want to walk into the sea. There are probably other options, but those seem like the most currently workable of them all.

Listen, we all know how FRAUGHT the topic of weight loss is. I don’t have the energy to rehash it here. But I DO want to lose weight. I do. So… I don’t know what I’ll do. We’ll see. That’s my Keto update, I guess: not doing Keto, not sure if I should try it again, not sure what to do instead. (Except stopping eating like I haven’t seen food in months.)

In the meantime, it’s clear that I NEED my Dinners This Week posts. Otherwise I end up staring despondently at my husband every night asking him, “What should I make for dinner?” And then we stare at each other, neither one of us offering any ideas, occasionally lifting our eyebrows hopefully in the other person’s direction, until we turn to stone. 

Plus, groceries are SO out of control expensive right now that I absolutely CANNOT continue doing the thing where I come up with an idea for one single meal and go to the store and get ingredients just for that meal and end up spending $75. That’s not financially responsible. Nor can we eat takeout as much as we are currently doing. It’s not helping anything, weight-wise, plus it no longer feels like a treat, plus ALSO expensive.

Another reason I need to get back to planning is that my in-laws are coming to visit and I expect they will want to eat with us a good number of nights (they are staying in a rental)… and I really need to plan that in advance or my sanity will crawl out of my ears. (My current plan of AHHHHHHH and lots of takeout doesn’t seem reasonable.) Plus, we are having friends over for dinner at some point and I need to plan THAT. (Tacos. There, planned.)

Dinners for the Week of August 1-7

Salmon Cakes with Something Green: I don’t know why, but I’ve had a hankering for salmon cakes lately. My husband is not a salmon fan, but perhaps since it’s cakes and not straight salmon, he will eat them without too much complaint. I’m not sure what to have on the side. Green beans? Let’s say sauteed green beans.

Oven Baked Pork Chops with Broccoli: My husband requested these specifically, so on the plan they go, along with some steamed broccoli. I have some freezer potatoes (more appetizing than I am making them sound) to add if we’re feeling carby.

Chicken and Ginger Stir Fry: Here’s another one for weird cravings – I am really in the mood for a very ginger-y stir fry. Maybe this one would be better. Or this one. What I really want is a stir fry with no sauce (yes, it is me writing this; no, do not call the police) but instead just lots of fresh ginger and maybe some garlic in there. I haven’t found a recipe that meets these standards though, but I will keep looking.

Parmesan Garlic Fish with Something Green: This sounds yummy. Maybe I would try it without the breadcrumbs. And as for a side… sauteed spinach? Or maybe some roasted Brussels sprouts? Carla picked out a Brussels sprout at the grocery store and said she wanted to try one – JUST ONE, she made sure to clarify.

Baked Chicken Breasts with Zucchini: I love Nagi’s oven baked pork chops (and pretty much any of her recipes I’ve tried), so these are bound to be good. And the preparation seems very simple, which is always nice to have in one’s back pocket.

What are you having for dinner this week?

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I am sad and my foot hurts and I have too many things to do but instead I keep bouncing back and forth between reading awful news articles and researching gun control legislation, so I am going to distract myself by blogging for a few minutes. 

Today as I was putting away the groceries (this is the THIRD trip to the grocery store I have made this week, which is a testament to how important it is to MEAL PLAN in advance because I did not do that this week and now here we are), I came across a giant five-pound bag of sugar that I bought in 2020 during the height of the sugar/flour shortage. I remember spotting it at Costco, alongside enormous industrial sized bags of flour and snapping it up with glee and relief. It has remained in my basement lo these many years. 

Well, my sugar container is looking a bit wan, so I will use the five-pound bag to refill it. My sugar container does not hold five pounds of sugar, though, so… I’m not really sure what to do with the remainder. That’s what gallon-size Ziploc storage bags are for, I suppose.

(The reason I need to refill the sugar container is because I am making cupcakes. They were supposed to do double duty: 1. They were to be dessert for an evening with friends, who were scheduled to come for dinner this weekend. 2. They were to be a special birthday surprise for our neighbor, who has become one of Carla’s favorite people on the planet; when Carla found out it was the neighbor’s birthday, she insisted that we make cupcakes. Anyway, the friends are no longer coming but the neighbor is still having a birthday, so I am still making cupcakes.) 

Pulling out the five-pound bag of sugar did jolt me back, a bit, into those dark days of the early pandemic. Not that the days have gotten a whole lot brighter, in many senses, pandemic and otherwise. But things are different. We no longer buy two jars of pickles a week, for one thing. I still note that we are getting low on paper towels or toilet paper, but I don’t fret. I raised my eyebrows when I saw that cream cheese was in very low supply (and zero of the Philadelphia brand was available), but I didn’t grab more boxes than I need for the cupcake recipe. The peanut butter shelves were near-empty, but that’s because of the Jif recall, not because peanut butter is no longer available. (Our giant two-pack of Jif was in the affected batch; we’d already eaten one entire jar but the other was unopened.) I have been gradually and purposefully whittling down our supply of frozen meat, rather than rushing out to refill it. 

I know things are still far from pre-pandemic “normal.” The note about “only four packages of baby formula per person” at my Target is a glaring example of that fact. But I do worry less. 

On the illness front: I have given Carla a Covid test before school every day this week. She keeps waking up with a sore throat or sniffles (that do seem to magically disappear by the time we leave for school), and I just don’t want to take a chance. Plus, Covid is rampant in her grade, with four and five cases per class as of last week (except in Carla’s class, so far). We are five days out from the end of the school year, and it would be amazing if she could make it the whole way… but that seems increasingly unlikely. 

My family continues to wear masks in public, indoor spaces. I am accustomed to wearing one that I don’t really notice anymore how many people are or aren’t wearing masks. I haven’t been hassled. My husband thinks that our road trip later this summer will take us through a lot of areas where masking will be non-existent, and I wonder if we’ll be hassled then; we’ll see. Carla’s school went mask-optional a long time ago, and we allowed Carla to make her own choice about whether to wear one or not. She enthusiastically chose NOT. We have been urging her, as cases at school and in her grade have crept up, to reconsider, and I think she IS wearing a mask at least some of the time. But it’s hard to know. When you are eight, it is extremely difficult to understand abstract non-immediate consequences. 

We are in the very, very privileged position of not having any underlying health issues ourselves, and not having any immunocompromised people in our household or classroom/work situation to worry about so we are more relaxed than some. I don’t know much about Long Covid, so that does worry me a little. We are of course willing and happy to take stronger measures if necessary – like I am always happy to throw on a mask if a friend is wearing one, and I don’t insist on going out for coffee when it is perfectly acceptable to have coffee at my house. But I feel like we have reached a level of comfort and regularity with how we protect ourselves. More than ever, it feels like contracting Covid is inevitable. We have been so lucky not to have it (or to have had such mild cases it went through us undetected); that luck is bound to run out.  

We are looking at a nice long weekend ahead of us. I finally got some flowers into the flowerpots in my front and back yard, and that makes me feel much better about things. They were looking so dejected and depressed; now they have little bright spots of color. (Except for the pot that has been designated as Carla’s. She went with me to pick out the flowers, and she fell in love with some black petunias. She would have had all our pots full of black flowers if it were up to her. Instead, I bought her a black petunia and gave her her own pot. And then filled up the other flower pots with purple and yellow and pink.)

I am very disappointed that our friends are no longer coming. We haven’t seen them since February, and they are the kind of people whose social calendars fill up months in advance so the next time they can work us in is August. (In fact, we’d originally been scheduled to have them over for dinner in April, but they accidentally double-booked us and had to back out of that; late May was the first available option way back in March when they realized the issue.) So I am disappointed and cranky about that. Especially because I already bought – literally – ten Roma tomatoes so I can make salsa and five avocados so I can make guacamole. I guess my little family will be feasting on salsa and guacamole all weekend. Perhaps I can coax our neighbor to come over for a little birthday fiesta? 

In my planning for the dinner party, I totally forgot about the long weekend. So this morning I planned out our meals on the fly, mid-produce section. In addition to chips, salsa, guacamole, and strawberry cupcakes, here’s what we will be eating:

  • Ground Beef Tacos: Carla squealed with delight when I told her we will be having tacos. Same, Carla. Same.
  • Spinach Salad with Strawberries, Chicken, and Goat Cheese: I will be using regular strawberries this time, not pineberries. Also, I like to use a mix of spinach and arugula because I dislike spinach. Also also, I am going to make my favorite balsamic dressing instead of the raspberry vinaigrette. 
  • Steak Kebabs: This may end up being steaks and veggies instead because my husband has a very interesting aversion to cooking shish kebabs. Even if I am the one who threads the food onto the skewers AND grills the skewers, he is very… hesitant about it. I am choosing to see this quirk as cute.
  • Crispy Slow Cooker Carnitas: This is what I planned to make for our friends. It’s fairly keto-friendly and always delicious.
  • Greek Chicken Chopped Salad: Unfortunately, I could not find any fresh oregano so I will need to go to the grocery store YET AGAIN. I will use that opportunity to buy more berries; I cannot get enough strawberries right now.

Salads and tacos. Sounds pretty great to me.

What are you up to this weekend? If you live in the U.S., are you doing anything special for Memorial Day?

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