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

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

Bags not in bags.JPG

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

Dinners for the Week of August 13 – August 19

  • Tacos

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

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

  • Grilled Chicken with a Veggie

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dinners for the Week of July 16-July 22

  • Tacos

Note: Taco Tuesday, baby!

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

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

  • Grilled Chicken with Quinoa Salad

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

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

  • Grilled Pork Chops or Steak with Roasted Green Beans

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

  • Grilled Chicken with Side Salad

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

  • Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Chili

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

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

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

What are you eating this week, Internet?

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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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While I really want to continue with the Salad Theme, I may be over-salading? So there is only one – nope, two, I couldn’t resist – on the meal plan for this week. Let’s try

Note: This sounds… like not something I would eat. But it’s DIFFERENT and it has a white balsamic dressing, which sounds very tempting.

Note: THESE SOUND AMAZING. All the tacos, all the time.

Note: YUM.

Note: I will be not eating the chicken and instead loading it up with bell peppers, which are clearly on my Desert Island Food List.

Notes: I successfully ate chicken at my dinner party (no barfing!), so I am ready (I think?) to stick my toe back into the chicken water. Which sounds gross. Don’t bathe in chicken water. But this seems like a good, gentle re-entry back into chicken-ism. I will make black beans on the side, just in case this is gross.

Note: Two curries in one week?!?!?! Am I INSANE?!?!?! Perhaps, but I do not care.

  • Out for a Mother’s Day Treat!

Note: We will probably go to my favorite Mexican restaurant so I can gorge myself on cheese and chips and hot sauce.

What are you eating this week, Internet?

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Thank you so much for your helpful ideas and soothing words on my post about my upcoming trip. While I do not know how to make a paper chain, I really like the idea of having some way for her to “count down” until our return. So I plan to write notes to Carla every day, so her grandparents can read them to her. I will include little tidbits about where we are and what we’re doing. And I ordered some books for her to open every few days as little surprises.

Life is busy with preparations, because of course I have thrown myself into totally de-cluttering my house in response to pre-trip nerves. So here is an abbreviated randomosity for you.

  • A spatula got caught in the bottom heating element of our dishwasher (she says, not knowing any of the technical terms although pretty firm on “spatula”) and melted. Our house smelled like acrid burnt plastic for a VERY long time, and our dishwasher STILL smells horrid, despite having been run through several times.

 

  • Carla wants a tiger themed birthday this year. Great. I love tigers. But… I am not seeing a whole lot of tiger-themed accessories. Unless you want Daniel Tiger, which I do not.

 

 

  • Speaking of Carla and her birthday: I have just purchased the relevant book in Louise Bates Ames’s amazing, soothing, and very helpful series about children. “Loving and Defiant” is the subtitle. Yes, yes that does describe a certain someone in a very accurate nutshell. One of the characteristics of this age is, apparently, a return to the intense ambivalence of age two. Which was helpful to know the other day when I applied some spray to Carla’s hair to help it be curly and she (defiantly) combed it out, saying she wanted her hair STRAIGHT. And then not two minutes later burst into tears because she wants it to be CURLY. Thank you, Louise, for making this a totally reasonable incident and not something that left me baffled and reeling for the rest of the day.

 

  • No one in this household requires child safety locks on the cabinets, yet they remain on the handles, dangling, useless.

 

That’s all I’ve got! Tell me what’s going on with you, Internet.

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Another Tuesday, another list of delicious meals I am eager to eat and not as eager to prepare!

My lovely mother-in-law got us a gift subscription to Bon Appetit a while back. I love reading through it, but it’s rare that I find a recipe that speaks to me enough that I want to make it. But we finaly got around to reading a recent issue and it really pulled out all the stops! My husband and I found three whole recipes to cut out and save. The theme for this week is, once again, veggies! Lots of bell peppers and lettuce. And hopefully a whole lot of flavor.

  • Balsamic Pork Tenderloin:  https://addapinch.com/balsamic-pork-tenderloin-recipe/

Note: I never remember that Tuesdays are awful, from a timing perspective. We get home late because Carla has A Sports Activity and she’s always cranky and exhausted so I need to put her dinner in front of her immediately and then throw her in the bath and then put her to bed. Which leaves very little time to prepare dinner for myself and my husband. So tonight I am making this crockpot meal that requires next to no prep and only needs me to chop and caramelize some onions once we get home. AM GENIUS.

Note: This is a new-to-me recipe, but my husband picked it out and it sounds delicious. You know I love a good stir fry. I am going to add some bell peppers, onion, and maybe some broccoli to the mix to make it less shrimp-centric. Also, I am not sure about using two whole tablespoons of fish sauce, per the recipe… Fish sauce, like Chinese five spice, caraway seed, and anise seed, is one of those flavors that hits me REALLY hard, even in small amounts. So I may end up replacing some or all of it with soy sauce.

Note: Another new recipe! I am giving this one the side-eye already because I don’t typically cook with orange. Don’t get me wrong, I love citrus! I am happy to use lemons and limes in my recipes anytime. But… orange? I mean, in bakingoccasionally, sure… But with fish? Well. I am always interested in new ways to make fish and this sounds really fresh and flavorful. I have no idea where I will get a single clementine, but I do enjoy a challenge.

Note: Mozzarella was on sale at my grocery store last week, so I bought some and then realized I didn’t know what to use it for. NOW I DO. I am super excited about this salad, although you know there will be no tomatoes on my portion. I am marinating chicken for my husband and cooking shrimp for myself. PUMPED.

Note: I am totally going to eat black beans instead of chicken and I CAN’T WAIT.

Note: This marinade is super yummy and I think it’s good to have an easy meat-plus-veg dish in the rotation.

  • Out

 

What are you excited to make for dinner this week?

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