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Welcome back from spring break! It is now time to meal plan, once again! Fortunately, the time away has (temporarily, I’m sure) reinvigorated me!

Here are some recipes I am actually looking forward to making this week:

Dinners for the Week of April 2 – April 8:

Notes: I will be adding bell peppers to this recipe for veggie appeal. Maybe chickpeas.

Follow up: This was decent. It tasted nothing at all like the kind of butter chicken you get an Indian restaurant, let’s be clear on that. But it was pretty good. And it was pretty easy. I did end up adding bell peppers and chickpeas, which were a good complement to the sauce.

Follow up: This salad is THE BOMB. The dressing is delicious and the pickled onions are SO GOOD. I never knew arugula could be so yummy!

Follow up: This batch of fire fry turned out to be WAY over-seasoned, when I was pretty sure that I had fixed my over-seasoning issues. (What I do is use an entire large container of yogurt, then increase the spices/herbs to 1 tablespoon where the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon.) My husband and I determined that it is the YOGURT that may be at fault. I use the cheapest, lowest-calorie fat-free plain yogurt I can find, which is Dannon. Next time, I am going to get a Greek yogurt instead and see if that helps. (I know that using a full-fat yogurt helps, because I did that accidentally recently and it was DELISH, but I am not really into using full-fat yogurt every time we eat this.)

Notes: Probably doing the yum yum sauce with the tuna is overkill, since it will be marinated already… but I have been wanting to do the sauce for a while, and this seems like a good fit.

Follow up: The yum-yum sauce was good, and I didn’t feel like it was overkill exactly. The marinade for the tuna was pretty mild. My bigger problem was overcooking the tuna. It is NOT EASY to get tuna to that perfect cooked-on-the-outside, -pink-on-the-inside level. Maybe next time I will use a different type of fish.

Follow up: This was very delicious.

  • Out

In addition to buying the ingredients for the above, I will be buying food to replace some of the items that were lost to our extended power outage. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been – it only affected one outlet, which had to be reset when we got home. The outlet happened to be the same one that powers both our wireless internet and our downstairs fridge. The wifi is now rebooted, and now communicating with our security system so our security company can stop calling us (they are on top of things, at least), and the fridge is up and running again. But everything in it was room temperature by the time we came home, so everything perishable had to be thrown out. The saddest things to toss were a) two miniature cakes I made with leftover cake batter from Carla’s last birthday; although my experience with eating the top of my wedding cake after a long stint in the freezer should have been enough to deter me from keeping them quite so long; b) a brand-new box of chicken dinosaurs, which have been Carla’s Entrée of Choice lately; and c) three packages of pork chops I got on sale. UGH. Oh, and a three-pack of butter from Costco. I held onto that a little longer than the rest of the stuff. BUTTER.

Oh well. Aside from the regrettable tossing of what was once perfectly good food, I am also kicking myself for not leaving the freezer unplugged long enough to clean it. Some ancient boxes of popsicles leaked and there are now greenish icebergs in the back of my freezer. Ew.

 

What are you having for dinner this week?

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It is bad enough that I am a very light sleeper. So light that the sound of my niece turning on the lightswitch in the bathroom down the hall jolts me into heart-pounding alertness.

What’s worse is that I cannot fall back to sleep. I am now awake, even though it is not yet four in the morning and even though I only went to bed three hours ago and even though the house is completely dark and no one else – not even my niece – is awake.

Instead, my brain is bouncing around from toe to toe like a boxer psyching herself up for a fight, except that the boxer has just downed an entire crate of 5-hour energy and her opponent is my desire to sleep.

Let’s worry, for awhile, about our security system. Early yesterday, we got a call from our security company to let us know that the power was out in our area. Great, thanks, security company. Allow my blood pressure to drop from Our House Is Being Invaded levels for a moment here. But then, of course, came the worry that our power was out, and we are… not there. My husband looked up the outage and discovered it should be resolved in a couple of hours; sure enough, it was. But then today, we got ANOTHER call from the security company to let us know that the outage had NOT been resolved and our backup battery was running low and we needed to DO SOMETHING. We could not do anything because we aren’t close with our neighbors and our local friends are all also on spring break. So I told them this, fervently hoped that a burglar would not choose this exact moment to break into our house, and said goodbye. But now, at not-quite-four-a.m., I am worrying and worrying and worrying. Maybe the person who said they were from our security company was not, in fact, from our security company… but was trying to scam me? And, yes, their plan was quite elaborate, mirroring the security company’s phone number and all and having two separate people call me, but STILL. It could be a very elaborate burglar. And, even if there is no scammer, what about our poor house, standing empty and unprotected (you know, except by locks and good, observant neighbors)? And what if the power company is WRONG, and our house doesn’t currently have power and our pipes are freezing and our food is all rotting? Of course there is absolutely NOTHING I can do about it, but let’s go over all the nothing options one by one since there is no one awake to entertain me, shall we?

After I finally decide to call the police station tomorrow and ask if they will increase patrols around our neighborhood for the next few days, my mind turns to the much more productive topic of Embarrassing Things I Did and Said During High School.

I turn on my phone and scroll through my news feed.

I turn off my phone and recite poems in my head.

I push my husband because he is snoring.

I go to the bathroom.

I listen very carefully to see if the noise Carla made (she is sleeping on a mat at the foot of our bed) is going to turn into crying; it does not.

I pick up my phone and start scrolling through a favorite blogger’s archives, because they are lovely and soothing, but it turns out I have overused this particular comfort technique because I can’t find any posts I haven’t recently read.

I find a nice long article about the mysterious disappearance of the world’s most famous actress.

Ah, finally. I am starting to drift off to sleep. I close my eyes and… UPPERCUT. My brain pinches me, hard. OMG, I almost fell asleep! Not on my brain’s watch! No way, no how!

Now I am nice and alert to focus on the important work of worrying about an upcoming trip and how hard/awful it will be to leave Carla behind.

Why didn’t I work harder on memorizing more poems???

Oh good. Here are partial lyrics from the Descendants 2 soundtrack to loop through my head instead.

I know! I can fret about the upcoming dinner party! Maybe I should scrap the Tex-Mex theme entirely and go for chicken and salad.

Go to the bathroom.

My husband is doing that thing where he is lying on his back and he has his head resting on his forehead with his elbow up in the air, but it keeps falling over and he keeps jerking it back into position. I push him onto his side.

Is Carla having a nightmare? Is she whimpering?

Are there burglars tiptoeing through my defenseless home right at this very moment?

Dumb Buzzfeed quiz.

Slow slide into sleep… PUNCH TO THE SOLAR PLEXUS. Almost made it there, but my brain swooped in to intervene just in the nick of time!

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

This goes on until seven thirty when my niece wakes up and starts talking with her mom, at which point Carla wakes up, delighted to get to play with her cousin, and I whine to my husband about my sleepless night. Kind man that he is, he takes Carla out into the kitchen and closes the door behind him. But… two minutes later, Carla crashes through the door to get a stuffed animal, and then two minutes after that my husband comes in to get some medicine and I snarl at him to just let me have HALF AN HOUR OF SLEEP FTLOG and lie there fuming at the rapidly-lightening ceiling. And then thirty minutes of no sleep later I angrily get up and start the day.

Thank you so much for coming! Welcome to today’s meeting! Sit, sit! Grab some coffee and a donut! But there’s no time to chat – although I do really like what you’ve done with your hair today – because we need to get Down To Business.

Today’s session of the Party Planning Committee is tasked with – surprise! – planning an upcoming party! A dinner party. Which I may have extravagantly set in motion with great enthusiasm and little thought to execution.

Here are the particulars: It takes place in two weeks. We will have eight adults and seven children, all under age six. Well, the children are all under age six; the adults are all under age 40.

That wasn’t a lot of particulars, I guess. Let’s see if I can add some Complicating Factors:

Complicating Factor #1:I do not in fact have enough seating for eight adults and seven children. I have twelve chairs and two tables. One table seats six or eight, if we expand the table. (Complicating Factor #1.5:If we expand the table, we cut into a doorway. Complicating Factor #1.75: If we expand the table, then that table seats eight and the other table only seats four.) The other table seats six people, but it is in my dining room, on my fancy carpet, which is my way of saying I don’t really want the kids to sit there.

Oh! I also have a small child’s table, with four child-size chairs. So maybe we can set up the younger crew (all around age three) at that table, and then hope that the bigger kids are less messy? That is asking too much, I know.

Okay, maybe this isn’t as complicated as I thought. That’s really my main concern: the seating.

So! Here is my proposed solution: FINGER FOOD.  My idea is that I make a bunch of appetizer-y food that people can eat easily while standing. Well, except for the kids. They will sit at a table, preferably NOT the table on my good carpet.

Complicating Factor #2:My husband doesn’t like appetizer-y dinners because he feels like they aren’t substantial enough to count as a meal. Which I 100% understand.

Complicating Factor #3: We don’t have a ton of counter space, so I am a little concerned about displaying everything. I will need some space to work and cook (space that people STAY OUT OF because I cannot deal) and then there will be serving space. We obviously have the two tables for serving space, but we also have a big kitchen island. When I have people over, I often set up the food on the island, buffet style. I don’t know if I would feel that comfortable with people eating so near the food preparation portions of the kitchen, but perhaps that cannot be helped; and maybe I just need to really be on top of my Advance Preparation game.

Oh, and here’s a possibly-not-but-I’ll-include-it-anyway Complicating Factor #4:The same group attended a dinner party at the house of one of the other couples and it was AMAZING. Not only do they have a stunningly beautiful house and kitchen, but the food (chicken parmesan, for fifteen people!) was delicious and photo-worthy. So I feel some pressure to not disappoint this crowd. I mean, our house is what it is (you KNOW that I am already wringing my hands about the fireplace) but the food/experience could be good or great or absolutely dreadful.

Now that you are properly briefed, our charge is to plan a menu that meets the following criteria:

  1. Easy to eat whilst standing up.
  2. Easy to (mostly) make or prepare in advance. I’d like to be Actively Cooking as little as humanly possible.
  3. Substantial enough to count as a meal.

My initial thought is that we do it up Tex-Mex style.

Drinks:I think I have this covered. I am going to make a couple of pitchers of limeade margaritas and buy some Corona and some Dos Equis and maybe also have a couple bottles of wine on hand (these people are drinkers!) and call it a day.

I don’t have any margarita glasses, so maybe I will find some cheap plastic ones – although an initial search turns up far too many plastic glasses for my needs; perhaps I will find some mediocre glass ones? Perhaps the Dollar Store has some options?

Food:

We will definitely do guacamole and salsa (either this one or this one or possibly both because I am a masochist), because I have made them before and because chips and dips are the ultimate finger food. I will have many bags of chips available for snacking.

For the “main meal,” I am strongly considering Taco Pizza, which is easy, something I’ve made many times before, and delicious. I’m envisioning one (or two?) large sheet pan pizzas that I can cut into squares for easy eating. The main problem is that I can’t really make it in advance. I can make the partsin advance, but I don’t want to assemble too early for fear of soggy crust.

Perhaps that will help my husband and his ilk feel more like we’re eating a meal?

In any event, I would also like to have some other appetizer-y things as options. I have been collecting some recipe ideas, non of which I have ever made before which is HELLA RISKY. Here’s what I’m considering:

Taco Cups:https://www.dinneratthezoo.com/taco-cups/ or https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/mini-phyllo-tacos/

I am kind of thinking these would be for the kids. And they can have whatever else they want, but I would cook these first and feed them mainly to the little ones.

Pros:

  • They sound easy enough.
  • I can use the same ingredients I’m using for the taco pizza.
  • They are small and child-sized.
  • Doubled, the recipe makes enough that grown-ups can have some too.

Cons:

  • I have never made these before, and so I have no idea if they are actually good or easy or anything about them.
  • I can’t imagine Carla eating these, although maybe she’ll eat the meat out of the cups.
  • I’ve never worked with wonton wrappers before (well, not since I made crab wontons with my mom a million years ago).
  • I am suspicious about wonton wrappers being a good accompaniment for taco meat.

 

Taco Pinwheels:https://www.pillsbury.com/recipes/taco-pinwheels/f55a4f16-0eb5-4a9d-ac5b-d75cd03b7ab7

Okay, this is my alternative to taco cups. For the kids, because they are way too similar to taco pizza. Unless I want to swap out the taco pizza for these instead… Hmmmmmm….

Pros:

  • They seem SO EASY.
  • I can use the same ingredients I’m using for the taco pizza.
  • They are small and child-sized.

Cons:

  • Not sure about prepare-ahead-ability with these guys…
  • Too similar to taco pizza to be an extra option for the grown-ups.
  • Carla will definitely not eat these.

 

Taquitos:https://www.foodiecrush.com/chipotle-chicken-taquitos/. or

https://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/black-bean-cheese-taquitos/ or

https://www.howsweeteats.com/2019/02/taquitos/

Pros:

  • Each of these recipes sounds delicious.
  • None of our guests are vegetarian, but if I made the black bean and cheese taquitos, it would be nice to have a non-meat option.
  • They are PERFECT for eating while holding a plate.

Cons:

  • I have never made these before.
  • I don’t know if they would be good cold/cool… and I really don’t want to have something in the oven Every Second. I have never before this moment envied people whose kitchens have two ovens, but here we are.
  • I have no idea if I can prepare these in advance. Ideally, I’d make them a week before and freeze them but… I don’t know if that’s possible.

 

Tex Mex Shrimp Wonton Biteshttps://www.com/light-tex-mex-shrimp-bites-recipe/

Pros:

  • These sound good and almost fancy.
  • They would be easy to eat.
  • I could serve them cold.

Cons:

  • Once again, I’ve never made these before. But I am going to continue listing it as a Con because it is.
  • Again with the wonton wrappers (although they “go” better with shrimp than they do with taco meat, in my mind).
  • Could I assemble these in advance? And, like, how farin advance? Okay, I actually read the recipe and it definitely says you can assemble them in advance… But it doesn’t specify how far in advance. I would guess I could do the wonton cups a day before and then fill them up right before the party. Sounds like a last-minute frenzy, no?
  • Does everybody like shrimp? I feel like it’s a regular-enough feature at parties and buffets that it must be something most people like.
  • SHRIMP IS EXPENSIVE. If I decide on these, I will definitely be keeping an eye out for sales.

 

Tex Mex Shrimp Cocktail:https://www.com/recipe/tex-mex-shrimp-cocktail

Pros:

  • What is it about shrimp that makes something seem fancy? This must be a very individual perspective, right?
  • Again, easy to eat.
  • Again, easy to serve cold.
  • Seems like I could easily prep these in advance. I might not include the avocado, because of browning purposes (although the lime juice might help… I wouldn’t really want to risk it).

Cons:

  • I’ve never made these before.
  • Does everybody like shrimp? I feel like it’s a regular-enough feature at parties and buffets that it must be something most people like.
  • SHRIMP IS EXPENSIVE.
  • I would definitely need little cups/dishes to hold this.

 

Mexican Corn Couscous Saladhttps://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/recipes/a48350/steak-skewers-with-mexican-corn-couscous-salad-recipe/

Note that I would only be making the salad portion of this recipe, NOT the steak skewers. Steak skewers are waaaaaaay outside my comfort zone.

Pros:

  • I could make this in advance.
  • This would be good served cold/room temp.
  • It would be nice to have a(nother) vegetarian option.
  • It has some  vegetables in it, which would be nice alongside all the meat/carbs.

Cons:

  • I’ve never made this before.
  • Corn and couscous salad does not seem like a particularly stand-while-you-eat friendly food.

 

Black Bean Souphttps://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/recipes/a55504/easy-black-bean-soup-recipe/

Pros:

  • I could make this very early in the day, which would help ease the pressure a bit.
  • It would be nice to have a(nother) vegetarian option.

Cons:

  • I’ve never made this before (although the recipe sounds verrrrry straightforward).
  • I would have to buy some small soup bowls/cups for people to eat this out of, because it’s obviously not a stand-and-eat kind of thing.
  • It’s not a particularly exciting food. I mean, if you told me you were serving black bean soup, I’d raise my eyebrows and utter a short, “Mmm!” but I wouldn’t be rubbing my hands together in anticipation or anything.

 

Should I scrap all these ideas and have a very simple Taco Party? Gimme Some Oven has a really good carnitas recipe that I can make in the crockpot… and I can make ground beef taco meat… and a side of black beans… and have all the toppings/shells out for people to make their own tacos…

Pros:

  • Easy.
  • Known quantities, since I’ve made them before.
  • Delicious.

Cons:

  • I know, I know; everyone loves tacos. But I’ve served them before at so many dinner parties (including to one-third of the guests coming to this party – not just beef tacos but the carnitas, too) that it feels so DULL.
  • I am already cringing at all the shredded cheese and lettuce and bits of tortillas that the kids will get all over the place.
  • Nearly impossible to eat while standing. The kids are going to sit no matter what (where though???). But there’s no place for ALL the adults to sit at one time, which would make some people feel left out.
  • I am fretting about how to keep the meat and beans hot. I could just leave everything in the various pots, but that looks so… unfestive. And I am not interested in acquiring chafing dishes.

 

Okay, Party Planning Committee. I am beginning to get mildly hyperventilatey at the enormity of this responsibility. So I have important questions for you to address:

  • No way am I making ALL of the above. I’d like to do one main, one kid option, one additional appetizer (or maybe two???), and the guacamole and salsa. What should I choose?
  • Am I crazy to do this at all? Maybe I just need to call and cancel. Initially, my husband and I had a misunderstanding about this dinner party, wherein I thought he was as gung-ho as I was, but in fact he thought we were having people over in the warm weather months when we could throw everyone outside, and he is concerned that our house just isn’t big enough for all these people. Which has ME worried that our house isn’t big enough for all these people. I mean, we don’t even have enough CHAIRS for Pete’s sake, maybe that is a Big Fat Red Flag waving at me to CANCEL ALREADY.
  • Am I overlooking something really wonderful and simple and perfect? I have considered something like Tex-Mex deviled eggs, but I a) hate eggs and b) have never made these and c) would refuse to taste them, so wouldn’t be able to tell if they were good or not. Ceviche, while fancy-seeming, is a no-go as well because I hate raw fish. And anything (besides salsa) that has tomatoes as a main ingredient is out because I hate tomatoes.
  • Is it okay for me to buy disposable dinnerware? Aside from the moral issue of using materials that will either become landfill/whale poison or will loiter in a recycling bin somewhere before becoming landfill/whale poison, which I am feeling quite acutely, is it a turn off, as a guest, to have to eat from plastic dishes? I don’t know if I have enough dishes to feed all the people I’m inviting (ANOTHER RED FLAG?!?!) although I am pretty sure I could scrape something together. But it would also be MUCH easier and would contribute to the appetizer-y vibe if I got something like this set of plastic appetizer plates and bowls and mini flatware.
  • WHAT IN THE NAME OF TACOS AM I GOING TO SERVE FOR DESSERT? Maybe this is something I can turn over to the guests when they ask what they can bring… although I’d love to make these tres leches cupcakes and you know I like Total Control over the food I serve.

 

Okay, Internet Party Planning Committee: ACTIVATE! Tell me what to do. Or, better yet, please send emergency catering services.

Well, it is FRIDAY. Spring break looms! I am looking forward to READING. Here’s some randomosity for you.

We replaced our water heater. Our old one was small-ish – you couldn’t have two people take back-to-back showers and expect for the second person to have hot water – and in the past couple of months, it had begun knocking every time you even washed a spoon. The water heater’s death knell, if you will. It was nearly 10 years old anyway, and supposedly water heaters only last 7 to 10 years. So it was an anticipated replacement, and we were glad to upgrade to a larger tank and happy to end our game of Will It Leak chicken. Our plumbing company is excellent, and I have never had a bad experience. But when the plumber wheeled the new tank in, he pointed out that it had a dent in it. “Ding,” he called it, which seems so flimsy and insignificant a thing. But to me, it looked like a DENT.

Water tank 1

Ding or dent?

He assured me that it was cosmetic only and reminded me that their warranty covers parts and labor should it turn out to be NON cosmetic, which is less reassuring a comment than perhaps he thought it might be. And he would chop a few hundred bucks off the cost, he said. He would be happy to swap it out for a new one, he said, but there was no guarantee the next one would be ding free; these things get bumped and banged around on trucks and he sees dings ALL the time! Some even worse than ours! And he wouldn’t be able to tell if the new one had a ding in it until he took it out of the box. Plus, he didn’t have another one on his truck, so he’d have to leave and go back to the shop. But it was really up to me. Then he looked at me expectantly. I said, okay, go ahead and install it. But inside, I was yelling, no! Don’t give me a dented water heater!

Listen. When I buy a thing, I want it to be Pristine. Maybe a scratch in a refrigerator door or a ding dent in a water heater has no impact on the functioning of said appliance. I don’t care. Part of the reason for getting a new thing is that it is new. No one has put their grubby ketchup-covered hands all over it or rammed it with a broom handle or knocked a ladder into it. My oven has a permanent stain around one of the burners and some scratches from being careless when removing the cast iron grates when cleaning it. The door handle of my freezer is kind of wobbly because the shortest member of our family insists on leaning on it despite repeated requests to the contrary. Our kitchen table is stippled with the wounds of a fork being jabbed into it repeatedly, not to mention some ballpoint pen marks that refuse any attempt to remove them. These things happen. Normal wear and tear. But when a thing is NEW, part of the fun – nay, part of the very thing I am PAYING FOR – is the fresh, clean, lack of marks-and-scrapes-and-dingsdents.

When we got our dining room table and chairs and our barstools from Crate & Barrel many years ago, ALL of them had issues. A couple of the barstools were wobbly – which the delivery person tried to blame on my uneven floors (which are not uneven, thank you) and some of the very expensive, all-wood dining chairs had scratches in them. I made the person take them back and get us new ones. (I think it took more than one re-delivery to get non-scratched dining chairs, OMG.)

I always worry that I am being overly picky. The people who are trying to get you to accept the scratched/dingeddented items certainly make it out like I am being wholly unreasonable – it’s just a little scratch! You can still sit perfectly well in a chair with a deep vertical gouge in one of the legs! And maybe I am being unreasonable, I don’t know.

Whatever. The dinged dented water heater leaked so the plumber had to get a new one anyway.

Water tank 2

El Dento before it was hooked up and began to leak and was then summarily removed.

I have a Shrimp PSA for you, Internet.You may be aware that shrimp have a “vein” on their backs, yes? And that you should remove it before eating? (It’s not a vein; it’s the shrimp’s digestive tract or something equally gross.) Well, when I buy shrimp, I try to get it shelled and de-veined so I don’t have to deal with disemboweling the things before I cook them. (Or deal with looking at their creepy bug eyes and legs and exoskeleton.) (Why do I eat these things?) Well, the other day, I was prepping the shrimp for the shrimp scampi meal I love to eat, and I noticed that there was a long, dark stripe on the underside of the shrimp. Maybe the de-veiner missed one, I thought. No, ALL of the shrimp had it. I painstakingly removed one gruesome string after another. Ew. I looked at the bag the shrimp come in. It said clearly that they are DE-VEINED. Well! I was going to for sure call the company and complain.

Turns out that shrimp (I learned after Googling, fortunately not after yelling at some poor shrimp customer service rep) have TWO “veins.” One is the digestive tract and the other is the circulatory system. A de-veined shrimp has been relieved of the former; the latter remains. Apparently you can eat the circulatory stuff just fine. But… EW.

So now I am weighing my preference for shrimp over chicken against my preference for not removing a creature’s circulatory system. I really don’t like being reminded AT ALL that the shrimp I am about to devour was once a living creature. It’s bad enough that I have to remove their tails; I do not want to do anything else. But now YOU can make the decision BEFORE shelling out $20 for a bag of veiny shrimp.

Do you think other omnivores and carnivores feel this sort of squeamishness about their prey? I mean, not cats. Cats are sadists (and I say that with love, because cats are my all-time favorite animal). What other explanation is there for a) toying with a mouse until it is nearly dead with fear and b) leaving the bones and fur of one’s meal on the threshold between one’s human’s bedroom and the hall in the spot most ideal for being stepped on by said human and c) gleefully presenting one’s human with the innards of a mouse as a gift?

Do you think bears are happiest when they are eating berries, and, although they recognize that creatures are probably higher-yield in terms of nutrition, get all yicked out when they have to catch a writhing salmon in their bare teeth? Do you think owls squeeze their eyes shut as they swoop down to grab a mouse for dinner and say, “Eeeesh, I really wish this thing didn’t have whiskers”? Do you think lions are all, “If only my zebra came de-hooved!”? I, for one, want my meat to be as far removed from Living Thing as it possibly can be. Ground beef does a great job at looking Not Alive. Same with a fillet of, say, tilapia. Anything with bones gets a little too close for comfort. Down this road vegetarianism lies, I know, but I really am not capable of giving up tacos.

I have a new favorite kitchen gadget! My husband got me this amazing can strainer, which I LOVE. I make lots of things with canned black beans and chickpeas and kidney beans, and it is such a pain to get out a big unwieldy strainer to strain and rinse one or even two cans of beans. The strainers take up so much room in the dishwasher, and their handles get in the way of other dishes and it’s just so annoying. And then I have to do the weird dance of rushing the rinsed beans over to the pot on the stove, dripping water all over the counter and the floor. So when I received this can strainer as a birthday gift a few weeks ago, I was DELIGHTED. And it works very well! It’s small, so I can just put it on the top rack of the dishwasher, and it takes up very little room. My only complaint – and it’s really more of an observation – is that it seems to take longer to rinse the beans than it does with the strainer; they are more crammed together in the smaller confines of the can than in the roomier strainer. But otherwise, it’s wonderful. Plus, it’s cheap: the one I have is selling on Amazon for under $4. Or there is a stainless steel option that’s under $8.

Can strainer

Photo from amazon.com

There is a particular kind of lentil soup I am obsessed with. It comes from my local Lebanese restaurant, and it’s light and lemony and soooooo good. It is also $5 a bowl, which is reasonable as a treat but not on a day-to-day basis. So I have tried to make it at home and continue to fail.

This recipe is quite good – Lemony Lentil Soup from Gimme Some Oven – but the restaurant version doesn’t have any carrots in it. So, seeing as I really detest cooked carrots anyway, this is not going to cut it as a substitute.  This Middle Eastern Lentil Soup from BBCGoodFood is closer, and I really like the bright note that the turmeric adds, but it’s still not right. There is definitely no turmeric in the restaurant soup. Cumin, maybe… but even that I’m not sure of.  I don’t know what else to try, to get it closer to the restaurant soup. Any ideas? Based off of… nothing, since you aren’t eating the same soup I am? Still – I am hoping you will know exactly which spice will make it taste right. And I am willing to experiment. Lentil soup is GOOD.

Lentil Soup

My attempt to make the Middle Eastern Lentil Soup with a few add-ons. Good but not right. Also, the restaurant tops its soup with crunchy little pita wontons. And that makes ALL the difference. So yummy! But I could not get my hands on any pita wontons the day I made this soup.

Well, that’s all the randomosity I have for you today, Internet! What’s going on in your neck of the woods?

I am not even going to preamble, today, Internet. Here are some meals I scraped together. But I refuse to enjoy ANY PART of the dinner process this week. I REFUSE.

Dinners for the Week of March 19 – March 26

 

Then, next week, we are going on Spring Break which is good because it means I don’t have to plan any meals… but bad because it means that I have to live with someone else making meals for me, which is stressful in its own way. I know. I am impossible.

What’s on your menu this week, Internet?

I have some bones to pick with blog commenting lately.

First of all, I think that it has become VERY HARD to comment on blogs. I am not talking about the difficulty of painstakingly typing out a comment on one’s phone, using clumsy fingers that constantly choose X instead of C. Nor am I talking about the attention difficulty, wherein you read a post on your phone and mean to leave a comment, but then your attention is diverted elsewhere by a stray child or a Luke Perry retrospective and you forget about the blog and then days pass and then you feel ridiculous joining a conversation that has long since left you behind.

Instead, I am talking about how blogs themselves seem to care Not One Whit about whether you can leave a comment or not.

BLOGS, not bloggers. The bloggers, I am sure, or perhaps I am projecting too much of my own neediness onto others, are wondering what is the POINT of putting their carefully crafted thoughts out into the universe when no one seems to read or care? The bloggers, as far as I can tell, are blameless.

It’s the BLOGS.

Let’s begin with a caveat: I acknowledge that it’s (highly) possible NO ONE wants my long-winded and overly frenetic comments on their blog. (Have you ever read an old comment you left on someone’s blog and wanted to melt into the floor with embarrassment? No. That’s because YOU are an excellent commenter. Me, not so much.) I also acknowledge that people may not even want or need comments on their blogs. The act of writing is probably MORE THAN ENOUGH for many people. And yet in the cases I will describe below, the blog comments are turned ON. Therefore I am going to assume that these bloggers want comments. Or at least are open to receiving them.

The first thing I have noticed is that CAPTCHAs have become increasingly difficult. It made me really frustrated, at first. But then I read this great article at The Verge about why they are so hard to complete these days. (TL;DR: Computers are getting too good at completing them, so they need to be increasingly difficult for human users to solve in order to thwart the machines.) That helped me feel less growly toward the CAPTCHAs, sure, but still, it’s a labor of love, nowadays, to leave a comment on a blog. Because first you have to type up your inane thoughtful response. And then you have to input your name and email address and URL. And THEN you have to solve a series of object identification questions that require superhuman vision and discernment. “Choose all images of a bicycle.” “Choose all boxes that have a traffic light.” Or, my least favorite, “Choose all images of a storefront.” (What counts as a storefront, pray tell? Does it just mean “any building with an awning”? I never get that one right. Good luck, machines.) And sometimes, even if you get it all right, you have to do ANOTHER test, just to be really, doubly, extra sure you’re human.

CAPTCHA

Does the POLE count as part of the traffic light? Or are we supposed to click on only the lights themselves? These are some of the highly important questions I find myself asking.

Fine. I get that this is just a necessary evil in today’s fruitless exercise in delaying the Machines Will Take Over Eventually No Matter What reality.

But that’s not the only issue I’m having.

Even WORSE, some blogs just… eat my comments. I will type out a comment, fill in the Name/URL fields, and hit “done” or “reply,” and the blog seems to react to that in some way, reloading or redirecting me back to the top of the post — but doing SOMETHING that indicates I have input a command and the blog has received a command. But then my comment never shows up. No “comment is awaiting moderation,” just nothing. The blog has straight-out rejected my words. There is a blogger I have been reading FOREVER whose blog does this, and it makes me so mad. She writes interesting, thought-provoking things! I want to respond! Sometimes I have questions! Her blog does not care.

So far, most of my issues are with blogspot blogs. But wordpress is not immune, oh no! I struggle with a particularly mysterious issue with wordpress blogs, where it asks me to sign in to wordpress… but even when I do, nothing happens. It just tells me, in a very condescending way I might add, that I am being asked to log in because I am NOT logged in. Even when I AM logged in. I can log in fifty times and the site never recognizes that I am, in fact, LOGGED IN. And eventually I give up and my comment never posts.

CAPTCHA 2

I AM logged in. I PROMISE.

SIGH.

I don’t want this to become a General Wistful Moan about blog commenting being so different from the halcyon days of yore. No. “Blogging” is a different thing than it was back then, but people DO comment, and I am fine with the way it is. But I do get really frustrated — for myself, as a Person Who Likes to Comment, and for bloggers who (I am projecting again) want to build an online community or desire feedback or simply hope that their writing is making an impact.  It’s hard enough, as a blogger, to compete with Twitter and Instagram and readers’ limited attention spans. These completely unnecessary barriers to commenting are not helping. And I feel so impotent to do anything about it besides whine on my blog!

Anyway, I hope you know that if you ever want to comment here, and you CAN’T, you can always email me at lifeofadoctorswife [at] gmail and I will gladly respond.

In the meantime, I guess I should figure out a way to befriend our computer overlords. Maybe THEY can fix these problems.

It is heartening – well, maybe not heartening so much as making me feel like I’m not the only one who finds meal planning to be excruciating lately – to read that other bloggers are having the same Meal Planning Dread that I am. The ENDLESSNESS of it all is really getting to me right now. Even throwing up my hands and saying, “let’s get take out!” more often than usual is having less of a bolstering effect than it should; because I am well aware that this is just one meal I don’t have to plan/make and tomorrow there will be another one, waiting for me, and then a limitless parade of meals after that until the sweet release of death.

At this point, even the idea of slotting in a bunch of Meals I Love isn’t helping. And when not even spaghetti with meat sauce can cure a problem, you know it’s serious.

Anyway, here are some joyless options for the coming week.

Dinners for the Week of March 13-March 19, 2019

Note: Yes, I am aware this recipe is for chicken. Yes, I am using pork chops instead. Yes, I am still avoiding chicken. Yes, my husband recently said in a cheery voice normally reserved for our five-year-old, “I think it’s time you started eating chicken again!” Yes, I treated him to a little lecture about not policing other people’s food preferences. No, I’m not sure what I’ll end up doing with the quinoa; maybe I’ll mix the veggies into it. Although plain, unembellished quinoa seems like a fitting metaphor for how I’m feeling about meal planning lately.

Note: Not one thing about this meal is remotely exciting. I mean, it tastes good. And it’s really easy. But I am Not Feeling It In The Least.

Note: This is good, but not a meal really designed for calorie counters, just FYI. I plugged it into MyFitnessPal and — even HALVING the recipe — it comes out to something like 700 calories a serving. That’s using light, unsweetened coconut milk! And not including the avocado! Why must so many delicious — and arguably HEALTHY — foods be so antithetical to weight loss? WHY? Ahem. I am making it anyway. In the past, I have recommended to myself to cut the fish sauce in half for the marinade and only use 1/3 of the suggested amount for the dressing. But that’s because I don’t like fish sauce and even being in the same city block as an open bottle of fish sauce is enough to make my nose wrinkle.

Note: I make a double serving of this, and round it out with TONS of veggies. Bell peppers, broccoli, onions, zucchini — the ratio of veg-to-meat is at least 4-to-1.

Note: This is, as per the “firecracker” designation, spicy. So any accompaniments must be nice and bland, to offset all the spice.

  • Taco Pizza

Note: I spread a lightly-baked pizza crust with refried beans, then top with taco meat and cheese, then bake until the cheese is melty. Then I top with onions, lettuce, and tons of hot sauce; my husband adds tomatoes and sour cream to his half, and omits the onions.

  • Out

 

What are you eating lately, Internet?