Posts Tagged ‘Dinners This Week’

For some reason, I woke up at 1:27 this morning and could NOT fall asleep. I don’t recall dwelling on anything specific, or being worried or anxious about anything, I just couldn’t sleep. 

This was good (????) because I heard Carla get up at 4:00 and then I heard her sweet little voice call out, “Hello?” (Does she do this on nights when I’m not awake? Breaks my heart a little to think of that.) I went into her room and she was in tears because her leg was hurting so! much! I rubbed her leg for awhile and then she tearfully informed me that it wasn’t helping, so I gave her Tylenol and offered an ice pack. She declined the ice pack because the pain was in her entire leg, not in one specific spot. 

Poor kiddo. My diagnosis is growing pains (after shooing some very unpleasant frets about blood clots – why does my brain hate me?). Did you ever have growing pains? I remember getting them, that awful deep ache in both legs. The medical sites say that the pain is largely muscular, and that doctors don’t think growing hurts – despite the fact that the pains occur largely in growing children and tend to stop when the children stop growing. But whatever, nameless heartless overly literal doctors. 

Carla agreed to try some stretches, so I led her through a few knee bends and some downward dog. She had to show me child’s pose and cobra as well, even though I doubt those did anything for her pain and she ran through her “flow” at such lightning speed I don’t see how it could have been at all relaxing. At 4:37 she was still Wide Awake. I suggested she try one of my getting-to-sleep strategies (I have taught her getting-to-sleep strategies multiple times, but she never remembers them and has, until last night, mainly refused to try them), which was retracing the steps of a favorite walk. I suggested she think about going over to our neighbor-with-a-puppy’s house, and think about each step she takes to get there in as great detail as possible. She closed her eyes and was quite still for awhile. At 4:52 I whispered that I was going back to bed, and she told me that she was at the point in the walk where she was putting on her shoes. Great. 

“If I’m not asleep by 5:30, can I come get you?” she asked. She was so pathetic, and her leg still hurt. Against my better judgment, I said, “Do you want to come sleep in my room?”

Surprisingly, she declined. (Actually, what she said was, “I don’t think that would have any effect” which was a very surprising sentence to hear from a sleepy nine-year-old.)

I went back to bed and lay there, awake, waiting for her to come get me. (She never did!) I finally fell asleep shortly after my husband’s alarm went off at 6:00, only to have a nightmare that my mother-in-law, who is supposed to arrive next weekend, had instead arrived today. It was extremely stressful, as though the worst possible thing would be for my mother-in-law to show up when I had some clutter in the kitchen or had not yet washed her bed linens. She would be fine and cheerful about the whole thing, honestly. But in the dream, it was A HORROR.

Somehow Carla and I made it out the door to school, and then I went for a four-mile walk with a friend I haven’t seen in weeks, which was a very good second start to the day. Then I went to Trader Joe’s and then to the library, where I picked up my copy of The Accomplice, on hold after Birchie spoke so highly of it. (I know literally nothing about it, except that Birchie recommended it. It’s quite fun to dive into a book that you know nothing about, except when your husband asks you what it’s about and then screws his face up into perplexed concern when you say you don’t know.) 

But when I got home, things took A Turn: I had six emails from my bank, all saying in their typical panicked way, “You recently made a large transaction” followed immediately by “Card Alert – Review This Transaction.” The bank does this – sends two apprehensive emails – for every transaction, and I have learned not to get terribly stressed. But this time, I had NOT made any transactions, especially not with the M*** Store in Washington State. 

The thing is, I had also not made any transactions with the M*** Store in the first week of November, when two charges of $.99 each hit my account. After scrutinizing both my memory and my account at the M*** Store (from which I cannot recall ever having purchased anything, although perhaps I did once a million years ago since I do have an account), I called my bank and they cancelled my card and sent me a new one.

So the card that was charged today was a BRAND NEW CARD. And I know for a fact that I have only used it at two places, one that rhymes with GayGal and the other that rhymes with Glamazon. 

I have cancelled this brand new card – and disputed the three charges of $.99, $.99, and $9.99 respectively – and I guess now I wait for the new card. Hopefully the holiday gifts that I charged to it this weekend will go through. SIGH AND ARGH. And also, HOW? How is someone accessing my card? How did they get it so soon after I cancelled the previous one? Why are they so hell bent on buying things from the M*** Store?!? My husband suggested that the fraudster had put some sort of recurring charge on my previous card, and that the card company automatically updated the number once I got the new one. So I have talked with my bank about THAT. I hope we communicated clearly about the possibility, but honestly I’m not sure. Fortunately, it is my personal account and has only a little bit of money in there, and fortunately I check my email way too frequently, so I caught the unauthorized charges early both times. But it sure is ANNOYING.

On to dinners.

December starts this week, people! It’s happening! 

We have three measly weeks left of school until a two-week winter break. Three weeks of all the activities. One week of my mother-in-law visiting. One call week. We’re going to POWER THROUGH.

Dinners for the Week of November 28-December 4

  • Mulligatawny Soup: Per my mother’s suggestion, I am going to make this with leftover turkey instead of chicken. Even if I don’t like the result (I hate turkey), my husband will eat it.
  • Spicy Chickpea Bowls: I have some chicken breasts I can chop up for my husband. I do need to whip up a batch of the ginger garlic sauce that this recipe calls for, which is a pain. But it is SO NICE to have a bag full of ginger-garlic sauce cubes in my freezer, and they last quite a while. 
  • Slow Cooker Lemon Garlic Chicken with Steamed Broccoli: We haven’t had this in a very long time and it’s good and it’s a slow cooker meal. Enough said.

I am also going to make another batch of butternut squash soup because it is easy and delicious and I am in a Soup Mood. Plus, Trader Joe’s had a lot of very nice looking, pre-cubed butternut squash at a very good price. 

Trader Joe’s also had a big container of cubed sweet potatoes, which I bought on a whim… but now I don’t know what to do with them! Roast them? But then… do what with them? I have tried roasted sweet potatoes on salad before and I do not care for it. What would YOU do with a huge container of cubed sweet potatoes? (I am not adding them to my butternut squash soup – I prefer my soup to be pure.) 

Also: I forgot to buy iceberg lettuce until the last possible second. (This was at the other grocery store I went to, specifically to buy bell peppers for the chickpea bowls. I cannot eat the chickpea bowls without bell peppers. And Trader Joe’s peppers were all soft and wrinkly. Ew. I need a nice crisp, unwrinkled pepper.) All my stuff (more than just bell peppers, I’M SORRY I HAVE A PROBLEM) was already on the belt; there was a woman behind me in line. I did the thing where I speed-walked over to the produce section and grabbed the first head of lettuce I saw so I could get back without anyone feeling like I was abusing the checkout section. But then I put the lettuce down, because it was very light, and grabbed another. ALSO very light, but now I was panicking, imagining the woman in line behind me tapping her foot and sighing in my general direction. I should have just put it down and survived ONE SINGLE WEEK without iceberg lettuce (I have baby spinach! I have green leaf lettuce!) but I didn’t; I ran back to the checkout line and paid for my groceries and only then did I discover that my very small head of iceberg, which will probably turn out to be three or four outer leaves and nothing else, was THREE DOLLARS AND FIFTY CENTS. That is ridiculous. That is a ridiculous price for a giant heavy head of iceberg! That is a ridiculous price for a plastic clamshell of pre-washed, pre-cut gourmet lettuces! Ridiculous! And yet I paid it! Maybe this is why I am a target of fraud; clearly I am not all that careful with my money. SIGH.

This is my present and my future, folks. Screeching in disbelief about the absurd pricing of lettuce.

Okay. That was a much complainy-er post than I intended, but there you have it. It’s a post-holiday Monday, after all.

It seems as though I am doing NaBloPoMo this month, which is 30 blog posts in 30 days. (Will I make it??? Only time will tell.) Details at San’s blog here.

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Do you realize that THIS WEEK is Thanksgiving? This week! This coming Thursday! If you are not residing in the U.S. at this time, may I move in with you and skip over this extremely wonderful and yet High Stress holiday please and thank you.

My parents are visiting, which is WONDERFUL. They stay in a hotel, which is mutually beneficial. My mother will be making a pumpkin pie – from scratch, using a real pumpkin – with Carla, per Carla’s request. My father will make the Caesar salad. I will make the mashed potatoes. Perhaps I can outsource the dressing to my husband. I don’t know. 

Wait a second. Now I am wondering whether we typically HAVE Caesar salad at Thanksgiving, or if this is a my-family-of-origin Christmas tradition only? I really WANT Caesar salad. But maybe it’s overkill.

I suppose I will make a turkey. I mean, I ordered a turkey already, so I am kind of locked in to making it. This is the only time all year that I eat turkey, because I hate turkey. Is hate too strong a word? How about, I strongly dislike it. It seems kind of silly to put so much work into a thing I really only eat because It’s The Thing You Do At Thanksgiving… (in my family, that is). But everyone else likes it. Maybe even Carla will eat it. And it’s essential to making the gravy I like. Well. I suppose I will ask my mother to help me. She is very good about helping – the giblets don’t squick her out and she is masterful with timing things so they are all ready at once. Why those genes did not express in my DNA, I don’t know, but here we are.

I feel kind of giddy, like I’ve had too much caffeine. Combination of pre-Thanksgiving excitement/anxiety, I suppose. That’ll get your blood buzzing! 

Plus, as per usual, the end of the year just snowballs out of control. I don’t yet have holiday cards! I haven’t purchased a single Christmas present! I have only one single idea what to get Carla for Hanukkah! My mother-in-law arrives two weeks from today! 

Please tell me something calming. I originally typed “clamming.” You could tell me something clamming too, if you like. But something calming would be MOST WELCOME.

In the meantime, we all need to eat in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. Perhaps we shall go for easy and warming. And then we’ll wing it, afterwards, with leftovers and charcuterie boards.

Dinners for Thanksgiving Week 2022

Where are you spending Thanksgiving, US friends? And what are you most looking forward to stuffing into your pie hole eating? What are you having for non-Thanksgiving dinner, non-US friends? 

It seems as though I am doing NaBloPoMo this month, which is 30 blog posts in 30 days. (Will I make it??? Only time will tell.) Details at San’s blog here.

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Let’s just say that some of the meals on my dinner plan this week are highly aspirational. You may also note that this is a double dinners this week, because I fully plan on NOT making dinner during my volunteer event, which begins on Friday and encompasses the entire following week. Also, my husband is on call. I have no idea how I am going to get Carla to and from all her many activities, but I can sure as sugar tell you I won’t ALSO be making dinner.

This week, a plaster expert is coming to finally repair the hole in my kitchen ceiling. He is supposed to be here for two days, and I don’t know whether I’ll be able to get into my kitchen to cook while he’s here. (That would be super weird, right? To be chopping and mixing while he is doing stuff to the ceiling? I feel like I would have to invite him to eat with us?)

The name of the game, therefore, is heavy utilization of my slow cooker coupled. Here are some things that I am planning, but I fully reserve the right to toss all these plans out the window in favor of takeout or digging random bits of things out of the fridge/pantry/freezer. 

Dinners for the Week of November 7-20

  • Oven Baked Pork Chops: This I know I can do – it’s so easy to mix up the sauce and marinate a few pork chops, and then shove everything in the oven when it’s time to eat. Maybe I’ll steam some broccoli alongside it? Or roast some green beans? What I REALLY want is to try those viral parmesan roasted potatoes, but… well, we’ll see. (I honestly don’t know where the potatoes originated, and it may not be from the recipe I linked to. But I’ve seen them everywhere and I [still] don’t do TikTok and I am also lazy.) This feels like A Normal Meal, to me – as in, a meal I can make during times of life that don’t feel pell-mell trying-to-catch-my-breath whirlwinds. Will I have a calm period in my life ever again? Who’s to say.
  • Instant Pot Chipotle Chicken: The lovely Birchwood Pie Project posted this recipe last week, and I MUST try it. Seems like the kind of thing that you can make once and then just add to random recipes as needed. I am going to eschew the instant pot, however, and make this in my slow cooker. Yes, I am afraid of my instant pot.

What’s new with you?

It seems as though I am doing NaBloPoMo this month, which is 30 blog posts in 30 days. (Will I make it??? Only time will tell.) Details at San’s blog here.

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Alert! Alert! It is the last day of October! 

Usually, Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. It’s so low-obligation, plus there’s candy, plus you get to see adorable kids and their semi-embarrassed parents marching around the sidewalks. It’s a lovely holiday. 

This year, I didn’t even put up my bats. My bats are my FAVORITE decoration of all the decorations I own, and I just couldn’t summon enough energy to put them up (or to contemplate the inevitability of taking them down). I (Carla) finally put up our yard ghosties, and we bought some pumpkins, so I feel like I made SOME effort even if it was wildly late.

This ghost is as aghast as I am that tomorrow is NOVEMBER. What the what.

Carla insisted on carving our pumpkins yesterday. I have managed to avoid jack-o-lanterning since… 2019, maybe? I can’t remember. But it has been several years. I have to admit that I didn’t miss it. It’s so messy and I don’t like the feeling of pumpkin innards, and I hate how strenuous an activity it is, to remove said innards. Plus, pumpkin juice leaves my hands feeling weirdly mask-like, even after thorough washing. But Carla was insistent, so I was game; I am at the point in her childhood where I am wondering, “How many more [fill in the magical childhood event of your choice] will we have left?” and I’m trying desperately to Cherish. So I cherished some pumpkin-juicy hands and pumpkin guts all over my floor. But! The best part! CARLA DID ALL THE CARVING. All I did was remove one pumpkin lid (my husband did the other one) and scrape at some of the most recalcitrant innards. She did everything else, from planning the design to doing the actual carving. She even cleaned up (most of) the mess! And rinsed and strained the pumpkin seeds that she’d lovingly saved from the fate of the guts! It was wonderful. Nine is a stellar age, I’m telling you.

This cat-o-lantern has ears AND a bow-tie!

Carla is excited to go trick-or-treating (although she is overly worried, in my opinion, about this rumor/conspiracy theory that’s going around about drugs disguised as brightly colored candy; I think it’s bunk and that anyone who spends money on drugs or makes money from drugs would not just HAND THEM OUT to children, who – in addition to having no idea where they got said drug-candy – have no financial means to continue to BUY drugs, but she is hearing this from FAMILY and also from FRIENDS AT SCHOOL OMG, so I guess I understand why she is edgy) (we know all our neighbors and we inspect all her candy anyway) and I am excited to watch her traipse around to the neighbors’ houses, where many of them have secreted special full-size candy or little candy bags just for her. 

We have the best neighborhood for trick-or-treating. Our houses are fairly close together, we know nearly all of our neighbors, there are tons of kids. When the weather is nice, some of the neighbors set up tables and chairs on their driveways so they can really get involved in the trick-or-treating process. It’s wonderful. 

I am making tacos tonight, because they are easy and Carla likes them enough that she might actually eat some before she goes out on her candy-procurement mission. The rest of the week, well… I think I’ll make a pot of butternut squash soupto have on nights when my husband and I eat separately (he eats a ham sandwich, though maybe I’ll surprise him with turkey! I am so fun.) instead of black bean tacos. For the other nights, I’m feeling more adventurous than I have in awhile. We’ll see how long that lasts, won’t we.

It’s been a very long time since I’ve done a grocery store report. In large part because things seems to have stabilized somewhat (except for prices HOLY CAULIFLOWER it is more than $100 every time I set foot in the grocery store), or at least I’ve grown to roll with the occasional random shortages. However, my grocery shopping experience today was a little distressing — the vegetable situation was GRIM. We’re talking two red bell peppers and five stunted zucchini (zucchinis? zucchinii?) and NO ICEBERG LETTUCE level grim. But I circled around to the produce section a few times, and finally there was a big pile of iceberg lettuce heads (this is Carla’s preferred lettuce for tacos, hence the urgency), and, even better, they were on sale at 2-for-$5 rather than “on sale” for 2-for-$7 which is what they’ve been going for lately. I think I’d just hit the store too early, before things were restocked from the weekend.

(Small aside: Our grocery store staff is extremely kind and helpful, and I have often approached a staff member in the produce section and asked whether there is something available in the back, and sometimes there IS. I was going to try this approach this morning, especially because a staff member was a) wheeling out a big cartload of bagged lettuce varieties and b) she’d already brought something out for another customer. But then after she handed over the spinach to the person who’d asked for it, the staff member heaved a huge sigh and groaned “oy vey” under her breath in a manner far too world-weary for nine in the morning, so I moved along without bothering her.

I did buy a bottle of non-Huy Fong sriracha in my store’s house brand. I haven’t gotten up the nerve to try it yet. But I fear that the chili pepper / sriracha shortage is going to outlast my small stockpile, and I need to find an alternative.

I also bought two cartons of yogurt that expired yesterday, so that was annoying. But that’s on me, I guess, for only doing a quick check of the expiration date of one yogurt and assuming that all flavors would expire on the same date. They do NOT; the expiries vary wildly from yesterday to December 5. Let that be a warning to you.

Dinners for the Week of October 31-November 6

  • Ground Beef Tacos
  • Garlic Balsamic Crusted Pork Tenderloin: This sounds yummy and I haven’t made it in AGES. I think I’ll throw some root veggies into the oven to roast alongside the pork. 
  • One Pan Pesto Chicken: This is a new one for me, but it sounds good (sans tomato, of course) and fairly easy, maybe?
  • Sheet Pan Crispy Salmon and Potatoes: This sounds good and I have some salmon filets ready to go in the freezer. Now I just need to find some good looking asparagus that isn’t mind-blowingly expensive. 
  • Butternut Squash Soup: This is so easy, even if it does involve chopping an onion. I just use cubed frozen butternut squash and it’s fine. The last time I made it, it was a teeny bit watery, so I am going to add a third bag of squash to the mix without adjusting any of the other elements of the recipe. I also bought a loaf of sourdough from the grocery store bakery and I have Big Plans [Confidential to those of you who hate mushrooms: LOOK AWAY] about sautéing some mushrooms with a little butter and garlic, and spreading the mushrooms on some Swiss cheese on top of a buttered slice of the sourdough and cooking it, grilled cheese style. That would make a delicious side to my soup, wouldn’t it now. 

Now I need to go find a bowl big enough for all the candy I plan to dole out to our trick-or-treaters.

Happy Halloween, Internet! I hope your night is full of treats! 

Carla was eager to buy a yellow pumpkin this year, and now I’m wondering why we don’t buy yellow pumpkins every year?! Wishing you a purrrr-fect Halloween.

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Our most recent houseguests (my parents) have returned home, and I have such a mixture of relief and despondency that I don’t really know what to do with myself. I love them! I love spending time with them! It feels like vacation when they are here, because we go hiking and they take me out to lunches and we spend lots of time chatting and we drink copious amounts of wine! They are so great with Carla, and she has SUCH fun with them, so I am despondent for her as well. But I am also glad to have it be just the three of us again, when we have had so little of that these past three months. Which, of course, makes me feel guilty! Well. I am consoling myself with the knowledge that my parents will return in just a few weeks for Thanksgiving. 

I stuffed myself with Gigi Hadid’s vodka pasta last night, which I paired with a very dirty martini. That should say a lot about my current mental state, no? It was deeply comforting, and I have a better outlook on life today. (And: leftovers.)

It seems significant to note that we will have no houseguests for a month. However, in that month, my husband is on call, we have parent-teacher conferences (and two days off from school), I have a freelance project to complete, our ceiling is being repaired (by a totally different person than I referred to in this post; he was the fourth person I talked to and I will believe the repair is happening when I see it), I will execute the week-long volunteer event I have been planning, Carla has a school concert… and then we will have Thanksgiving. And then, the week after our Thanksgiving houseguests leave, we will have another houseguest for what seems to be a minimum of four days. It is all good! We are so lucky to have visitors we love and a life full of activities and events and work! And yet I am just not a person who thrives on Being Busy, I am a person who squeaks and wants to curl into a silent ball.

Moving swiftly on: Halloween is imminent! I have not thought one iota about Halloween, except to thank the costume deities for the fact that Carla wants to be the same thing she was last year and her costume still fits. Perhaps I should give some consideration to decorating for the holiday, or at least buying a pumpkin?

But! Let us not think of all that! Let us think only of food! 

Dinners for the Week of October 24-30

  • Chicken and Zucchini Stir-Fry: I am not honestly sure I will have time to make this, but I am desperate for stir-fry. It seems like it has been weeks since I’ve eaten it. This is the quickest and easiest stir fry that I make. Plus, I love it.
  • Black Bean Tacos: This is my current go-to dinner for the three nights a week when my husband and I eat separately. I don’t use all the yummy toppings listed in the recipe. I just do melty cheddary cheese, lettuce, and copious amounts of my dwindling supply of hoarded sriracha. 
  • Broccoli with Beef: Can I sneak in a second stir fry?! This one is really easy, too. Although I add a red and a green bell pepper to the broccoli, which makes it a teeny bit more labor intensive.
  • Spaghetti with Meat Sauce: I have really had pasta on the brain lately, and the way I make meat sauce is very easy. (Brown a pound of ground beef – say that five times fast – with half a diced onion and as much garlic as makes your heart sing. Add a jar of Ragu pasta sauce, a small can of Hunts tomato sauce, a palm-full of each dried basil and dried oregano, a few shakes of Tabasco, a few shakes of cayenne, and some salt and pepper. Simmer for as long as you can stand it. Eat over pasta of your preferred shape.) Produces leftovers.

What are you eating for dinner this week? Any Halloween plans in the offing?

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This week, we still have visitors, we have a holiday, we have a birthday, and then more visitors! Plus, life still feels extremely high on the frazz-ometer. I have no idea what to plan or make! And yet I need to plan and make something. Many somethings. 

Takeout is not really an option lately. My daughter’s and husband’s basically conflicting schedules mean that a) no one would get to eat the takeout while it is hot (which is a Big Deal to me even though I realize it doesn’t bother most people) and b) no one is available to pick up takeout anyway. I suppose I could conscript my in-laws into bringing takeout, but then there’s a Whole Thing with them wanting to pay for it and… well, I guess I can just let them pay for it. 

Also, I do not want my mother-in-law to cook. I just don’t. (She would! She’s lovely! She wants to help! This is a Me Thing, and yes it makes life more difficult and yes I understand that and yet I still don’t want her to cook. I tried it the last time they were here and it just reinforced the fact that this is a thing I cannot handle for a variety of reasons. You will just have to accept this as a quirk I have, one that is incurable.)

Dinners for the Week of October 3-9

  • Slow Cooker French Wine and Mustard Chicken: I am assuming (hoping) that the mustard in this chicken melds nicely into the background and isn’t all “Here I am!” jazz hands in your face. Because my husband dislikes mustard almost as much as I dislike tomatoes. Aside from the mustard, this ticks so many boxes that I need to tick right now: Slow cooker. Not too difficult. Includes spinach. (I bought a huge box of spinach for a recipe last week that I did not make and now I have a whole lot of spinach to use up.) (Yes, I realize the recipe calls for kale, but I don’t have kale, I have spinach.) I am opposed to sage, though. So with that and the mustard, maybe this recipe isn’t right for my family, I don’t know. I am grasping at slow cooker straws here.

Follow Up: This was fine, but not a hit. I did not pre-sear the chicken, and honestly it probably could have benefited from a little extra flavor. The mustard did not overpower, which was nice… and the spinach worked really well instead of the kale. But this was just a little… I don’t know. Flabby is the word I am coming up with, although I mean that in a taste sense not a textural one. The sauce was too thin, for one thing. And it had a flavor, but it was a little mild but also a little bitter. I don’t know. My in-laws were very kind about it, but my husband did not care for it and I was fully on the meh side of things.

  • Sheet Pan Lemon-Herb Fish with Crispy Potatoes: I really, really would like to eat this… but I don’t know if it will happen. We’ll see. And… it doesn’t really have anything green. Do I need to make a salad to go with it? Maybe some quinoa/brown rice/farro with peas and onions?
  • Beef Stroganoff with Side Salad and Ice Cream Cake: This is my husband’s birthday dinner request. We’ll have it over egg noodles. Maybe I should do roasted green beans or steamed broccoli instead. We’ll see. 

Follow Up: This was very good. HOWEVER, I messed around with the recipe a bit, so who knows if I can ever re-create it. Here’s what I did. I noticed AFTER I had measured out the requisite quarter cup of dijon that a) that was a HELLA lot of mustard and b) pretty much every other stroganoff recipe EVER calls for something in the realm of a single teaspoon of dijon. Not, you know FOUR TABLESPOONS. So I ended up putting in around 1-2 tablespoons of dijon and then fretting about it the entire rest of the time it cooked. Since I knew (belatedly) that I was going to cut the mustard (lol – I crack myself up) (although I don’t actually know what that is supposed to mean — if something doesn’t cut the mustard, it means it’s subpar, right?) I figured I would need to make up the flavor elsewhere. Other recipes called for white wine, so I deglazed the pan with the onion/garlic mixture with 1/2 cup of dry white wine. Then I also added in a generous tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce. Then, because the resulting sauce STILL tasted mustardy, and I was panicking a bit, I added in an extra cup of beef stock. Then, because I was STILL panicking, I threw in a big glug of soy sauce. The end result did not taste mustardy at all, but I don’t know if it’s because of my ministrations or because it would have cooked off anyway. I also did not want to wait to do the garlic mushroom mixture the recipe called for, so I simply sautéed some mushrooms and some garlic for a while and then tossed them in with the rest of the beef and liquid for the entire eight hours it cooked. Then at the end, I used an entire 16 oz container of sour cream — and my husband added probably another quarter cup of flour to the sour cream, because the sauce was very loose — and mixed that in at the end. The end result was truly delicious.

  • Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas: I am hoping my niece will eat this. Even though I don’t know if my own daughter will eat this. Sigh. 

And then we’ll fill in with takeout, I guess. 

What are you eating this week?

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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! 

Follow Up: This was SO GOOD. I seared the meat and cooked the onions/garlic as well, before adding those things to my crockpot. I don’t know if the flavors would be the same without, but maybe I’ll try it next time because I really hate searing meat. I used baby potatoes and I didn’t chop ANY of them, which meant I had to eat the stew with knife and fork. Maybe I should quarter them next time. I added two parsnips, a container of quartered mushrooms, and two cups of chicken stock. It seemed a little under-salted, so I also added a big glug of soy sauce toward the end. This is a keeper.

  • 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! I served these with Mexican style green beans, which was very easy to make and a huge hit with everyone.

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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