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Posts Tagged ‘feeding my family’

Just as a general note, if you or anyone you know need a Girl Scout Cookies hook up, Carla is selling cookies between now and February 2. If you don’t know any Girl Scouts and you want cookies, want to donate cookies to U.S. troops, or want to support an Internet child you don’t know, let me know and I will send you a link to her online order form.

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Last week reminded me that I enjoy shrimp. In small quantities. So I am going to try not to lean on it too much while I am avoiding chicken. Hence the Zero Shrimp Recipes below.

Also, we didn’t eat all the meals I’d planned (one night, my husband had a surprise – to me, not to him – meeting, so we ate leftovers, and another night we spent all day Going Going Going, so we went out to eat instead), so I’m recycling two:

Note: I think one of the reasons this is a leftover item from last week is that I am scared of the spinach. I don’t particularly like spinach, and I have never cooked it before. But I am getting sick of green beans, zucchini, and broccoli, which we rotate practically every three days.

Follow Up: This was SO GOOD. The cod was lemony and delicious, and super easy to make. I think next time I might even skip the flour, just sprinkle the fish with a little paprika, salt, and pepper, and drizzle it with butter and lemon juice. Very simple but really yummy. I also had a few baby potatoes and a red onion and some mushrooms lying around, so I chopped those up and roasted them with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and some fresh thyme. I was afraid the spinach would be gross, so I wanted to have a backup vegetable. But the spinach was AWESOME. I used this Ina Garten recipe (I love you Ina) and it was so simple and really delicious. All in all, an excellent meal! Definitely will do this again.

Note:  I am also planning to do a homemade tartar sauce for my husband. (I prefer a bit of mayo mixed with sriracha, myself.)

Another thing is that I think maybe I need to be more… honest? is that the word? about how many days per week I am willing/able to cook. Especially when it’s a new-to-me meal.

This week, I am going out one night with my dear friend/mentor. And I think I’m going to give us a second night for leftovers/going out/what have you.

Here’s what’s on the meal plan for the remaining three days:

Note: I don’t think I have ever cooked flank steak. And my husband isn’t a huge fan of asparagus. So this meal could be a big loser, we’ll see. (But it’s NOT CHICKEN.)

Note: This is a recipe I’ve made before, so I feel fairly comfortable fooling around with it. I am going to swap the chicken for pork tenderloin, and the carrots for parsnips andcarrots andred onions because I don’t really like carrots. Cooked carrots. Raw carrots are A-okay.

Follow Up: This ended up being good… if I scraped the mustard sauce off of the pork. I think in terms of mustardy pork tenderloin, I much prefer this mustard balsamic version from Jo Cooks.

My husband admitted that he does not care for cooked carrots either (a revelation), and Carla tried one — and one parsnip — and agrees that she does not like either. So we will be foregoing the cooked carrots in future

Note: I have some tilapia in the freezer from the last time I made this. So all I have to buy is broccoli and some shallots! Woot! Also, don’t let the “en papillote” thing deter you. This is SO EASY. And very delicious.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoy it when you tell me what YOU are eating this week, so please. Spill the beans. (Or chicken. Or spaghetti. Or whatever it is you’re planning for dinner.)

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My dad and I used to go out for pizza to this little pizza joint on the edge of town when I was a kid. They had the best pizza. But one day, the pepperoni (my favorite pizza topping) developed this weird smell. No one could smell it but me, and my parents frankly thought I was ridiculous. But to me, anytime I was around pepperoni – there or anywhere – I was overpowered by this sharp unpleasant nearly unendurable scent. The upshot was that I couldn’t eat pepperoni – or pizza – for A Long Dark Time. Years, maybe. So long that the pizza joint got turned over to new owners who transformed it into a rather seedy bar.

I have since come around and pepperoni smells wonderful once again and remains one of my favorite foods. The point is that I am not unfamiliar with being put off by certain foods. It’s happened before with ground beef. Perhaps it has even happened, years ago, with chicken; I can’t remember. But I’m off chicken currently, and it’s cramping my style.

Last week, I ate some leftover chicken paprikas and got a weird piece of chicken in my bite. I tried to keep chewing it, which was a bad plan, and ended up gagging into the sink and washing the rest of my paprikas (a much beloved and comforting food!) down the drain. BOO. And now I am queasy about chicken.

CHICKEN. I cannot stand the thought of it! It makes my face scrunch up and my stomach heave just to write the word on this page! And yet… how will I live without it?!?! Probably 80% of my meals revolve around chicken!

I am not opposed to eating vegetarian-ish things. But my husband needs Meat. I make him a beautiful butternut squash soup and he says, “where’s the protein?” He has gone All In on the Protein At Every Meal deal and I try to live up to my role, in his eyes, as Protein Provider.

We could have a lot of fish. But I like to buy fresh fish (am spoiled) (also my husband is spoiled and swears that any fish not fresh off the fishmonger’s ice tastes fishy) and also fish is expensive. I like to admire the beautiful snow white flesh of the halibut but I am loathe to spend $24 a pound for one dinner. Let alone more than one dinner. No thank you.

We could eat various other meats. But I am going to be honest with you here, I can only eat so much beef. Tacos, yes, maybe once a week (although they are not conducive to my Healthy Eating plans; if I’m going to eat one taco I’m going to eat six and I’m not even joking). Chili, fine. But it’s not a weekly kind of meal. Filet mignon, okay, once in a blue moon (expensive; finicky and oil-splattery to cook). Other cuts… just don’t appeal to me. I’m not a person who enjoys things that are shaped from ground beef – outside of hamburgers, that is. I won’t do loaves or balls sculpted out of meat, no thank you. I mean, I could probably do a pot roast now and again. But that’s a labor intensive affair right there. I am all about the easy meals. Same goes to beef burgundy or beef stew, by the way. Fajitas, but with steak? Meh, but maybe. That’s about it, folks.

This leaves pork. I do enjoy a good pork. Har har. I can do chops and tenderloin just fine. But… I just don’t think I could come up with enough variety. It’s not quite as versatile as that veritable blank canvas of foodstuffs, the boneless skinless chicken breast. I guess we will find out.

(If you are thinking, “Wait a second there… you have named literally three types of meat when there are MANY MORE OPTIONS AVAILABLE TO YOU! Turkey! Duck! Rabbit! Veal! Venison! Buffalo! Ham! Boar! Game hen! Sausage! Lamb! Shellfish!” Well then perhaps you have underestimated my ability to be squeamish about nearly everything on earth.)

(Neither my husband nor I eat tofu or any other plant-based protein substance. I know. We are lame.)

Well, despite all these crazy restrictions, I have managed to scrape together a week of meals that sound pretty appealing. And, most importantly, chicken free.

Dinners for the Week of January 8-January 14

Note: This is a new-to-me recipe but it sounds scrumptious. I haven’t decided if I will make this with beef or shrimp yet. Probably I will end up getting beef for my husband and then I will just eat the veggies.

Follow Up: This recipe was pretty good. I did end up eating it without veggies, and we added a handful of broccoli to the peppers and onions. However… as with most things containing Chinese Five-Spice powder, I found this overpoweringly five-spicy. I knew going in that I find that spice to be a little cloying, so I halved it. But it was still too much. So if I make this in future, I would either not include it at all or put in something like an eighth of a teaspoon or less. Aside from that, this was super easy to put together.

Note: Yes, this is a recipe for chicken. I am going to use pork chops instead. (In actuality, I used pork tenderloin. What? I like to play it fast and loose over here.)

Follow Up: I ended up foregoing the zucchini; instead, I made the tzatziki sauce that went with the recipe and made a quick Greek salad with quinoa, tomatoes, cucumber, and red onion, drizzled with lemon juice, olive oil, and a splash of red wine vinegar.

Note: I’m not sure what to pair with this, as a side… Maybe I will do some black beans? A simple salad? This is going to be a game-time decision, if by game-time I mean the grocery store produce section.

Follow Up: The rub/marinade for this salmon is super yummy. The avocado cream is also yummy. But I don’t know if they are necessary together? The avocado cream felt a little superfluous, and it was so limey that it kind of overpowered the flavor of the fish.

I paired this with a simple salad: mixed greens, quick pickled radishes, green pepper slices, and a sprinkle of roasted sunflower seeds. Then I made this quick lime vinaigrette. The salad was honestly the star of the show. Next time, I might make more salad, slice some avocado, and put the salmon on top. Skip the avocado cream altogether.

Note: This sounds decadent and totally anti-diet, but it has shrimp, which I enjoy for two reasons: 1. They are fairly low-calorie, if that matters to you. 2. I can only eat four or five at a time, which helps with #1 and also ensures I don’t spend a billion dollars on shrimp. The bad thing about shrimp though is the de-veining, which is DISGUSTING. Let’s not even think about it for One More Second or we’ll be down another protein.

Follow up: My grocery store sells shelled, de-veined raw shrimp in a big two-pound bag. I wasn’t in the mood to spend $20 to experiment with shrimp, so I bought some raw shrimp from my fish counter. The fishmonger told me that they are the exact same shrimp from the bag, so it was a good way to test them out. And they were excellent. I rinsed them several times in cold water, just in case they were salty, and they ended up not being salty at all.

This recipe was very good, but pretty labor intensive. I made the cajun seasoning (even though I didn’t have white pepper — whoops) and then I used my immersion blender to puree the sauce so there weren’t any tomato chunks in it. And even though I used the same pot for the sauce that I used to sauté the shrimp and veggies, I still had that plus the pasta pot plus the big bowl I used to keep the cooked shrimp and veggies warm plus lots of measuring devices that I had to wash. It was very tasty. It made a TON of sauce, and I am not sure how it will be as leftovers. We’ll see, I suppose. Next time I would probably try to halve the recipe, and I would make sure to have skim milk on hand (I ended up using whole milk, which is what I had in the fridge).

Note: Sometimes cod is good, sometimes it is bitter. I do not know when or how to determine which kind of cod I will get. Perhaps I will choose an alternative – tilapia is my the chef’s favorite because it is sturdy while still flaky and has the uncanny ability to take on any flavor you apply to it; my husband the dining public prefer more expensive “less fishy” fish.

Note: This marinade is good on chicken, I think it will be just as good slathered on a tenderloin.

Follow Up: I ended up using this marinade on pork chops rather than tenderloin and it was delicious.

Note: I am still kicking myself for not saving the recipe for the first time I made salmon cakes. It did NOT include Old Bay, which neither sounds nor tastes appealing (to me), but it was easy and fairly yummy. I have a sneaking suspicion that I Frakensteined my salmon cakes from multiple recipes, so it can likely never be recreated. Oh well. This version – stripped of the Elderly Docks and parsley – should do.

There you go! A chicken-free week! I plan to get the salmon all at once and then maybe make the salmon cakes and freeze them? Does that sound too ambitious? Perhaps. And then I will get the cod/tilapia/what-have-you on Saturday and make the cod meal that night. The shrimp… well, I’ve heard that frozen shrimp is one of the Great Hidden Deals of the grocery store, so I may attempt to put that to the test. If so, I won’t need to worry about waiting a few days before adding it to a meal.

What are you eating this week, Internet?

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Internet, I am so sick of all food and have no idea what to cook and yet I STILL feel obligated to feed my family.

Yes, I have been here before. But this rut ravine crevasse feels especially deep and wide and insurmountable.

Let’s list all the things that are contributing to these dark feelings:

  1. My grill is broken, so none of my summery “throw some meat and veg on the grill” options are available to me
  2. My in-laws are here, which means I feel (self-applied, only) extra pressure to cook Things That Are Special
  3. I have still not gotten accustomed to our summer schedule, so I feel off-kilter in general
  4. It’s hot and I don’t have any extra energy for cooking
  5. I used up every last store of Cooking Enthusiasm in June, when I baked two cakes and countless cupcakes and hosted my in-laws for multiple Special Meals

First, I tried to make meal planning more interesting by adding two or three Brand New Recipes to the weekly list of dinners. But that requires research and energy, and I am fresh out of both. Okay, I am not “fresh out” of research. I am fresh out of PATIENCE for research. DESIRE to research. And patience and desire for this line of sentencing.

Next, we have been eating lot of meals outside the home, which takes all the planning and cooking weight off of me. But eating out all the time is expensive and time consuming. And I tend not to make the healthiest choices when I go out to eat (if I’m going to spend money on a meal, it better be tasty and fancier than a SALAD is my line of thinking).

Finally, I have turned to cooking super easy things, like Crockpot BBQ Pork or Tacos or Burritos. But my husband is growing weary of all of those things, and they aren’t really the lightest fare, either. I love to eat foods that are smothered in cheese and sour cream, but there’s only so much of that you can eat before you start to feel like YOU are smothered in cheese and sour cream.

How in the world do you climb out of such a deep and overwhelming food chasm?

Probably what I need most is some fresh ideas. Which is difficult to ask for because a) I have a HUGE list of recipes I haven’t tried and b) I am super picky and so 90% of recipes people suggest never sound that great. Really makes you want to help me, doesn’t it?

What are your go-to meals, when you want something easy and delicious? Bonus points if you would serve it to guests.

(Where does this come from, this need to do Something Special for guests? If a food is good enough to serve to my family, why doesn’t that make it good enough to serve to other people? And yet there are MANY things that my husband and I eat all the time – and LOVE! – that I have never thought twice about serving to others. Some of them are pretty spicy, so maybe that’s part of it… we like a spice level that wouldn’t be comfortable to many other people. Some of them seem… plain, I guess? Like the Crockpot BBQ Pork, which is just a pork tenderloin and an onion dumped into the crock pot with some BBQ sauce [and sriracha]. I usually eat it with a baked potato and some green beans. I LOVE it. But I wouldn’t consider serving it to friends because… I don’t know! It seems too homely somehow? It seems like a B-Team Meal, and when you have people over, it seems like you should be serving them only A-Team foods? It’s too easy to make, and you should put in Real Effort when you entertain? I have no idea. Is this Foods-Suitable-for-Guests thing unique to me and my husband?)

In exchange, I will give you my FAVORITE recipe of late. It is so good. So good that I refrain from making it too often, lest I get sick of it.

(And I cook the chicken in the oven – 425F for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is 165F – so it doesn’t matter that our grill is broken.)

It’s called Honey Chipotle Chicken Bowls from How Sweet Eats but I think of it as a big, delicious salad. I use lots of mixed greens for the base, and I cut some fresh corn and bell peppers and carrots and avocado and add those to the salad. And then I top everything with a mixture of the lime dressing the recipe recommends and a generous drizzle of the cooked marinade from the chicken.  I was really suspicious of putting quinoa on a salad, but it adds a very pleasant texture that I love. We served this to my in-laws recently, and they loved it.

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