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

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

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

Dinners for the Week of August 8-14

What’s on your menu this week?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dinners for the Week of August 1-7

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

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

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

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

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

What are you having for dinner this week?

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I am NOT in the mood to think about dinner, not one bit, but I did go to grocery store and go through all the motions of buying food that could potentially be put together in a variety of combinations on one’s plate. 

The grocery store has, of late, been… well, not worrisome, exactly. But every time I go there, I feel the parallel lines between my eyebrows deepening just a little in watchful pre-concern. Today, the produce section looked like it had been looted by a colony of ravenous hares. (Please note that a group of rabbits is also known as a fluffle, which is just too adorable for words, and which, sadly, does not have the right tone for my current level of grocery store apprehension.)  There was no asparagus at all (I found some later in the prepared foods section), a single bunch of broccoli – even the section of more-expensive broccoli crowns was meager, and the crowns themselves looked like they were old – and the bell peppers were nearly non-existent. The boxed/bagged lettuce seemed plentiful, at least. But there were only TWO heads of iceberg lettuce at all. Except – and please share if your grocery store is doing this same kind of lettuce mind game – there were several two-packs of “artisan miniature iceberg lettuce” or however it is that they are trying to disguise the heads of lettuce that are too small to be sold as regular heads of lettuce. Every time I see these stunted, tiny twin packs I roll my eyes, but I have never taken a photo. I will try to remember to do so next time so we can all scoff at them together. 

The berries were moderately plentiful, but the limes and lemons looked picked through and the only other available fruits were grapefruits, a few oranges, and some pears. I did get some kiwis, I suppose, which is good because Carla is in a kiwi kick. I suppose there was, in reality, an abundance of produce in a wide variety. But it felt like very low-stock, with lots of empty spaces. And perhaps that was due to it being first thing Monday morning, but I just don’t know

The rest of the store seemed… sparse in odd ways. Like… the tonic section looked very picked over, with lots of holes on the shelves (the hole that most affected me personally was the one where the diet tonic should have been grumble grumble), but really there was a lot of tonic to be had. The same with the yogurt: holes and empty shelves, but in and among LOTS of yogurt. I was irritated to find that the peach Two Good yogurt had expired back on April 23, but there were enough other options to get plenty for the week. Cream cheese seemed very lacking – the foil-wrapped rectangles were not in evidence, nor were the tubs of whipped cream cheese Carla likes. I still have a couple of boxes from the false-alarm cream cheese shortage of last fall though (possibly expired), so I merely squinted at the empty cream cheese section and moved on. 

Frozen pancakes were not only available, they were on SALE. I had promised my husband – who is joining me on Keto! – that I would get him some frozen egg bites, but they were missing from the shelves. 

My grocery store has rearranged the meat section so I find it hard to evaluate whether it truly seems bare (there were three pork tenderloins total, and only a few packages of pork chops) or whether it’s just unfamiliar. 

Things seem VERY expensive. I hesitate to admit that I am in a position where I buy things from a list, and rarely make note of the price unless it is wildly shocking (like the 2-for-$7 iceberg lettuce of last fall). But I am pretty sure that pints of raspberries and blackberries would normally, at this time of year, be $2 a package rather than $3.50. And containers of strawberries would typically be going for $2.50 a package rather than $4.99. 

The biggest price escalation I spotted today was goat cheese. I am 99% certain that I could get a 4-ounce log of goat cheese for $3.99 in the past; today it was $5.29, and that was for a brand I’ve never heard of before. The kind I usually get was $5.49. That is a BIG jump. Cheese in general seems to have really gone up in price – unfortunate considering that we eat a LOT of cheese, especially when doing keto. 

I also bought wheat germ for the first time, because I made a loaf of banana chocolate chip bread on Carla’s request; she’d tasted it at a friend’s house, and I got the recipe from the friend’s mother and it calls for equal parts flour, whole wheat flour, and wheat germ. For anyone who has also never before purchased wheat germ, and suddenly finds themselves needing it, it was in the cereal aisle, NOT the baking aisle like I thought it would be. I also scoured the aisle that has all the hemp hearts and chia seeds and whey protein and collagen powder before finally asking an employee. 

Carla has asked me to FREEZE the banana chip bread once it is made, which… I am not going to do until after she has tasted it fresh.

I bought some cheery yellow tulips as well, on sale for $6.99 a bunch; there used to be a section of flowers that were 3 for $15, but several weeks ago that changed to 3 for $18, so I understand that flowers are no exception to inflation. These tulips were one of a handful of bunches that looked remotely acceptable; the others looked like they had already spent several long days preening for the customers and were now haggard and limp. Perhaps it is the persistent rain of this particular spring that is causing the lackluster flowers; perhaps there will be an influx later in the week in time for Mother’s Day.

Okay. I have dawdled long enough. Now it is time to figure out what to eat this week.

Dinners for the Week of May 2 to May8

What are you eating this week, the FIRST WEEK OF MAY OMG?

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We finally had some sunshine and heat this weekend. Enough so that I wore a sleeveless shirt one day and a skirt and sandals the next. It is supposed to drop into the thirties again in the middle of the week though, so I am trying not to get TOO comfortable. I do wish there were a more gradual shift from winter to EIGHTY-DEGREES, though. I prefer to linger in the 60s for awhile. 

Then again, it is nearly May. May. May is NEXT WEEK, people. How. And when. And why. Time is a slippery fish. 

I think I may try to fire up the grill a couple of times, while the weather is nice? The heat certainly makes me crave things will grill marks. 

Dinners for the Week of April 25-May 2

  • Takeout and various other easy meals.

I realize I don’t have sides planned for any of these meals… but… that’s more than I am capable of at this moment. 

What’s your weather like right now? Have you been able to grill yet this season (if grilling is your thing)?

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How was your holiday weekend? Did you eat anything wonderful, and if so I want specifics please (candy counts).

I did not make beef tenderloin for Easter dinner. My husband said that beef tenderloin is our Christmas dinner, and, while he didn’t expand on that comment, I sort of get where he’s coming from. We don’t want to spoil its specialness by having it more often.

Instead, after begging my family to tell me what they want, Carla finally announced that she wanted “that chicken Daddy ate at the Japanese restaurant.” First of all, it was pork, but no matter! This was a clear, specific request and something that I could make with Carla, so I readily agreed. We made pork tonkatsu (I made myself a pork chop with no breading) and Carla and my husband thought it was yummy. I do not enjoy pan frying things, but it turned out okay. 

We also had strawberries and mascarpone which was delicious (even without adding honey to the mascarpone). 

Let’s see. I think I am going to try a few fun things for dinner this week, and then lean heavily on the prepared foods section of my grocery store for other meals. I just don’t have it in me to cook, but I KNOW I will not be cooking next week, so I feel like I should at least give the impression of making an effort. 

Dinners for the Week of April 18-24

  • Lemon Butter Shrimp with Broccoli: I don’t know how my husband will feel about this one – shrimp is not something he really gravitates toward. But I think it will be novel, at least, because I don’t make shrimp for the family that often. (Of course, by “for the family” I exclude Carla, who will not touch a shrimp with a ten-foot chopstick.)
  • Thai-Style Pork Tenderloin with this Quinoa: I want to make the quinoa. I want to eat the quinoa. But I may just skip it altogether and do a boring side salad or some green beans or something. Time will tell.
  • Honey Garlic Sheet Pan Salmon & Brussels Sprouts: Here is where I play “can I get away with forcing my husband to eat salmon if I slather it in honey.”
  • Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef Tacos: These are good and we haven’t had them in a long while. 

What’s on your dinner plan this week?

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My hands are still shaking from a horrendously embarrassing experience, so I am trying to distract myself with some fun and fluff. 

Oh, you want to share in my humiliation first? Okay. 

I texted the owner of The Kitten to see if Carla could come visit him (“him” meaning the kitten; the owner is a woman). I had recently put her number in my phone, at Carla’s request. She’d (the kitten owner, not Carla) texted me so I would have her number, and I’d added her to my contacts. I tend to add people to my phone as “FirstName LastName,” and then never include any other identifying details… and you are well aware that I have a terrible memory… so there are multiple people in my phone who are now complete mysteries to me. One of these days I should really go through my phone and delete those people. 

I clicked on the kitten owner’s name – noting briefly that there was no prior text from her; I must have deleted it – and texted her: Hi, this is Carla’s mom. Is there a good time for Carla to come visit The Kitten?

A few minutes later I got back a series of question marks. 

As you may have intuited from my expert foreshadowing, I texted THE WRONG PERSON. Apparently, I have two people with the same first name in my phone. A fact which I have long since forgotten. The one whose name popped up when I started the text was the wrong one. 

And I have NO IDEA WHO SHE IS. 

Is this an old work contact? Is this someone for whom I’ve done freelance work? Is she a fellow parent from Carla’s school? Is she a board member I’ve interviewed for a writing project? Is she someone I went to grad school with? Is she a friend of a friend I’d connected with at some point? Is she some sort of service provider I have employed at some point? ZERO IDEA. 

I typed back, So sorry! I must have the wrong number!

But what I REALLY should have typed back was, So sorry! I must have typed the wrong FirstName!

Because if she is in my phone, there is a real likelihood that we know each other, and have interacted via phone before. Which means that there is a real possibility that she is sitting there wondering a) why I am contacting her about a kitten she doesn’t know and b) why I am pretending it was a wrong number and c) why I haven’t asked her how her work/family/life is. 

But I have no idea who this person is, or why she is a contact in my phone. I even googled her and I swear I have never seen her before in my life. But she was in my phone. So we must have known each other at some point! 

All I can do is hope that this person has as terrible a memory as I do, and has long since removed me from her phone, and isn’t feeling hurt/miffed/weirded out by my faux pas. 

LET’S MOVE ON TO LESS HORRIFYING TOPICS.

I have some questions for you. 

Weigh In #1: What food do you hate, but wish you didn’t? While I am a very choosy eater, I don’t feel particularly bad about it most of the time. I eat enough of a variety of foods that I’m pretty confident I can go to any restaurant or any friend’s house and find something to eat. I’ve never once thought, “I wish I enjoyed lamb. Or beets.” But there are a few foods I hate that I really wish I didn’t. 

Tomatoes. I hate tomatoes so very, very much. But they are one of those wildly ubiquitous foods that show up all the time, in places expected and not. (I cannot tell you how frequently I have encountered tomatoes on a Caesar salad, when they have no place in a Caesar salad.) Life would be so much easier and more pleasant if I just liked tomatoes! Or could at least tolerate them! Even friends who kindly ask about food preferences before they invite us over sometimes have tomatoes in their offerings, and I am just so very weary of being that picky person who doesn’t like tomatoes. 

Oatmeal. I cannot bring myself to enjoy oatmeal. Outside of oatmeal cookies, which are the sole exception. But lots of people genuinely enjoy oatmeal, and it seems like such a hearty, healthful food. I really wish I liked it. 

Eggs. Outside of scrambled eggs – which, even then, I only like a specific way – I avidly dislike eggs in ALL FORMS. But they are versatile and easy and full of protein. I want to like them. 

Weigh In #2: What is the best seat on an airplane? I prefer the window, myself. I like being tucked in next to the wall, I like being able to look out during turbulence to reassure myself that we are not in fact falling out of the sky, I like being able to lean my head against a solid surface. But when I fly with my family, my husband is the one who gets the window (although sometimes he swaps with Carla) and I get the aisle. I do not care for the aisle, because it puts me in close proximity to people, and those people tend to be very oblivious to the boundary between their space in the aisle and my space in my actual seat. The only benefit to the aisle seat is easy access to bathroom breaks. But then again, you have to be the one to pop up and down while the middle- or window-seater squeezes past you to the bathroom. I still remember the time I flew and a woman in front of me refused to swap seats with her row-mate’s spouse, because the spouse was in a window seat. “I have a bum leg, and I prefer the aisle so I can stretch out my leg,” she said. But… you aren’t supposed to stretch your leg into the aisle, right??!?! Isn’t that a tripping hazard? Isn’t that begging for a new leg injury when the drinks cart slams into your shin? 

Weigh In #3: What is your worst time-wasting habit? I am already terrible about spending too much time on social media. But more recently, I have found new depths to my time wasting online, which is that I have gotten sucked into watching gender reveals on Instagram. There is literally nothing beneficial about this habit – except that I derive occasional joy from the rare parent that shows true, unbridled joy at the result. Okay, and usually only if that unbridled joy is coming from the male parent, and in response to a pink result. These videos are fascinating, though. There are a bunch that feature the same bearded guy, who must run some sort of company that offers and records these sorts of reveals. There are a bunch where the timing is off. There are a bunch where the couple have other children, some of whom seem very disaffected by the whole event. 

The worst – and most fascinating – ones are the ones where one parent is CLEARLY disappointed by the result. I am not faulting someone for being disappointed: when I was pregnant, I was SURE I was having a boy, and I pictured a tiny blond copy of my husband. I got very attached to this fantasy. When we found out that Carla was a girl, I was disappointed. I hope you know that not a single cell of my body is disappointed NOW, now that Carla is a real wonderful human and it has become clear to me that everything I love about her is completely unrelated to her sex. But I get the disappointment. What I find perplexing is recording that disappointment and then posting it for the world to see. Perplexing and fascinating.  

Anyway. That is how I have been wasting far too many minutes of my one wild and precious life lately. I blame spring break. 

Now it’s your turn. Please weigh in. 

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Wow, do I hate the time change. It should have kicked in already, right? Instead, I still feel like I’m sleeping less and yet also sleeping late and it’s making me very grumpy indeed. You’d think I would be THRILLED at the news that the U.S. is planning to put an end to the time change. Instead, I’m apprehensive. What new inconveniences will NO time change insert into our lives? What can I say. I am bitterly opposed to change, even if said change means changing the time change. Better the devil I know, I guess. 

It has come to my attention that I may have forgotten to update you on a few small things here and there. Things that make literally no difference to your day-to-day well-being. And yet, for completeness, I am going to give some updates. At least, on the things that I remember I need to update you on. Perhaps, if there is something you have been eagerly awaiting an update on, or a Burning Question you have for me, you will mention it in the comments, and I will answer it. 

First of all, let’s talk cake. As you know, I did indeed order my own cake from a fancy artisan bakery for my birthday. It was only $35 (I had thought it would be in the $70 range, so $35 seemed like a bargain), and my interactions with the baker/proprietor were 100% via email (which made me love her even more). Carla and my husband happened to be with me when we went to pick up the cake, and Carla was aghast that I was going to see the cake before the appointed candles and singing time. I think this is because I always hide her cake from her until I bring it out with the candles glowing and her family off-keying “Happy Birthday” while she waits at the table. We didn’t do candles or singing for my birthday, which is fine. The cake was GORGEOUS. A sea of lemon curd, ringed by a crown of raspberries. Here, let me show you:

A THING OF BEAUTY

I want to stop there, because it was beautiful, and the lemon curd and raspberries were perfection. But I am sure you are wondering “How did it TASTE?” and there I start feeling a little discomfort. Because I want to tell you that it was perfection… but it was… well, it was almond cake, for starters, when I had requested vanilla. And the buttercream – which was applied in the exact right amount!! – was vanilla as well, when I had requested cream cheese. The layers were separated by both lemon curd and raspberry jam, which was a little odd, but I’d said I wanted lemon curd and if there were raspberries involved, I wouldn’t be mad about it, so she interpreted that in her own way. It was fine! My husband, who likes cake much more than I do, assured me it was a Very Good Cake. And I don’t want to be ungrateful! It was lovely! But it was not what I asked for. Oh well. It was still quite fun and I don’t regret ordering my own cake, or ordering it from this particular bakery. And it is infinitely better to not-love a cake when that cake was baked by someone other than your beloved husband. Edited to add: Okay, I am coming back here to say that it was much more than fine. It was a beautiful, well-made, gourmet cake. It was not exactly to my tastes, but that’s more on me than on the pastry chef who made it for me.

Dinners continue to mystify me lately. I continue to load up my cart with khaki pants and sensible cardigans. I have some pork chops, some tilapia filets, and some beef I can use for stroganoff or stir fry. I also bought a package of chicken, intending to maybe give chicken a go again. We’ll see. But even with all these perfectly serviceable foods in my fridge, I am baffled by what to make. It is currently 5:15 pm and I have NO IDEA what to make for dinner. UPDATE: We are getting takeout from the Lebanese place that does spicy cauliflower. We had tacos last night, and that seems to be the only meal that has ever existed. (Obviously, I could do stroganoff or stir fry, but those things seem much too complicated to implement NOW.) Tell me what you’re having for dinners this week, even though it is somehow already dinnertime on a Wednesday. I could surely use the inspiration.

Speaking of dinner, I have been returning to the stir-fry sauce suggestions post frequently, for ideas. So far, I have only tried yum-yum sauce (per several suggestions) and it was wonderful and rich and perfect with the shrimp I made. My husband also dug a jar of gochujang sauce out of the depths of a cabinet, and I used that on a stir fry one night. It was… okay. Good mainly for its novelty. I think I made a roasted gochujang chicken once many years ago, and the sauce was better in that capacity than it was on stir fry. I will be working my way through the rest of the suggestions, as they are all appealing. Well. Except for the peanut butter suggestions, because I do not care for peanut butter. But I still appreciate your suggesting them as options!!! My husband, for whom peanut butter is a Desert Island Food, would love them!

I can’t remember if I told you this already, so forgive me if I have: Mornings continue to be awful, but we have instituted a new system of rewards and consequences that may or may not be helping. A little. Carla gets a set amount of screen time on the weekends – two hours per day. So we are now tying her morning timeliness to screen time. For every minute past the appointed Leave The House Moment, her screen time is reduced by five minutes. For every minute she is early, she gets two minutes of additional screen time. This worked terribly the first week (she lost nearly all her screen time), and then much better the next week, and less well the next week. In advance of Spring Break, we have sort of relaxed the rules… but I am eager to pick it back up again after Spring Break ends. The best part about it is that I feel less involved in getting out the door, if that makes sense? Obviously, I still want to be on time! But having this system makes the whole thing feel kind of out of my hands, which relieves some of the stress of pushing and pushing and pushing. I don’t know. Ask me later if it’s helping my overall Morning Mood. It’s still too early to tell. 

In the same post linked above, I mentioned that I was fretting over what to do for my parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary. A couple of people mentioned family photos and that idea kind of knocked me over as The Perfect Thing. But there were so many obstacles to get through to figure out if that were the right gift, or even doable! First, feasibility: we are celebrating the anniversary in a very remote location, so I didn’t know if photographers would be available. Turns out there are MANY photographers in the area, but most specialize in weddings. And that meant $$$. So the next obstacle was cost. I made several requests-for-quotes via online forms, and heard back from one photographer. And then I had to have a phone call with her, which you know I love. She was very nice and her pricing was absolutely reasonable. But then I felt I needed to get buy-in from my parents. Because what if they already had events scheduled for their anniversary weekend? Or what if the idea of dressing up and getting photos taken sounded horrible to them? I was very reluctant to “spoil” the gift – but I decided removing the element of surprise was far preferable to showing up with an expensive photographer and be faced with a group of reluctant subjects. My mother seemed very pleased by the idea, so I booked the photographer. And voila! Gift handled!

Speaking of gifts: I recently learned that my mother’s beloved clay focaccia pan? pot? dish? died a sad untimely death, and she is on the lookout for another one. I would love to get her one, as her birthday is coming up. But I have no idea what the original was like. The only specific I managed to extract from her was that it was CLAY, not cast iron. I have no idea if it was round or square or rectangular or what. And google is NOT helping me out here. A terra cotta cazuela looks like a good candidate, maybe… although I guess I was always under the impression that focaccia was Italian and not Spanish, so a cazuela is perhaps not the most authentic vessel. Or maybe a bread cloche would be better? I am really hoping that you know exactly the thing I need to buy for my mother’s focaccia making purposes. 

My daughter and I watched Turning Red together. While I am glad to have watched it, I can’t say that I LIKED it. Not true of Carla, who has since watched it an additional four times and has been playing 4*Town songs constantly on our Echo. I liked some of it. I liked that it was a movie that touches on the physical and emotional changes kids go through during puberty. (Although I did get a little caught up in trying to make “turning into a red panda” completely analogous with puberty/menstruation, which it is NOT.) I liked that it explored the complexities of mother/daughter relationships, although those parts made me cry. I liked that it showcased the importance of friendship. I liked the diversity of the characters, in race and body shape. And I liked the message that it’s okay to be yourself, even if that self isn’t exactly what your parents want you to be. But there were parts I didn’t love, also. I didn’t love that the main character (Mei Lee) lies and defies her parents… or that the message “be yourself” seems to condone both of those things, as well as other things like physical violence and disrespect. I didn’t love that the changes Mei Lee goes through are referred to as “upsetting” by the mother. (I mean, I get we’re talking about a girl who is literally changing into a red panda, which would be upsetting… but it read to me as though the parents found puberty/menstruation to be upsetting, which seems like the wrong message.) I was mad that Mei Lee’s mother was so heedless of her daughter’s privacy and private inner life. I didn’t love that Mei Lee (and, later, her mother) are so unwilling to be honest about their feelings that they end up lying to their mothers in ways that make things so much worse. And I found it just plain confusing that Mei Lee is fine with being herself, but literally ALL of the other women in her family go through with a special ceremony to suppress their own selves. Kind of a mixed message. Then again, perhaps I am expecting WAY too much out of what is simply a cartoon for children. No movie is perfect, and there is no reason THIS movie should be held to an unreasonable standard. It has plenty of commendable aspects, and my kid likes it. And it sure beats Puppy Dog Pals or The Suite Life of Zak and Cody.  Have you watched it? What did you think?

What are you watching, TV-wise, these days? My husband and I just started watching Severance on AppleTV. It is kind of like Office Space meets Black Mirror and I am hooked. In the universe of the show, a company called Lumon severs its employees’ minds in two. (This is a big controversial thing, in the show’s universe.) While outside the office, you are a normal person except that you have no memories of what goes on while you are in the office. While at the office, your mind is only aware of what goes on in the office; your outside life doesn’t exist. The main character’s best work friend leaves the company due to mysterious circumstances, and the main character tries to put things together both inside and outside of the office… without knowing what his other “half” is doing. It has some dark humor and some very dark moments and some very poignant commentary on grief and some extremely thought-provoking ideas about autonomy, and then there is the mystery of this company and what it does and why. The whole thing is totally captivating. 

What’s new with you?

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Listen, I am going to be honest with you here. I have not been super about sticking to a meal plan lately. Today, I am going to list some meals below that I WANT to make, meals that I INTEND to make. But let’s just all keep in mind that it may not happen, and I may simply roast some salmon and broccoli and call it a day. That sounds good. Maybe I should put it on the list and increase my chances of following, at least in part, the meal plan. 

Before I get into the actual meals, I want to access your stir fry genius please. 

One of my favorite meals is Stir Fry, in which I chop up a bunch of veggies and possibly a protein and then toss them together with a sauce. My favorite type of sauce is some variation on soy sauce plus something sweet plus something spicy plus a little glug of vinegar, with some garlic and possibly ginger thrown in. This Szechuan-style sauce is one of my favorite versions of this type of sauce. As you well know, I adore this chicken and zucchini stir fry, which is also a soy-based sauce, with some chicken stock thrown in for good measure.

But… I may be growing weary of that type of sauce? My husband is, that’s for sure. Every time I make something with a soy-based sauce, he comments on how salty it is. And we do use low-sodium soy sauce, so I don’t really know what to DO about that.

The thing is, I am not sure what other options there are, for stir fries? I mean, there’s the entire curry side of things, which I love. And maybe I just need to veer over into curry territory more often. My problem with curry is twofold: First, it feels heartier than a soy-based sauce; richer. And sometimes I want something that feels light. Second, I feel like curry is fussy, at least compared to the soy based sauce, which I can now do without measuring. I like a nice flavorful curry, and the curry paste that comes from a jar just doesn’t do it for me on its own. It needs doctoring. The reason my favorite red curry stir fry recipe is so delicious, for example, is because it also has kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass and a bit of sugar thrown in to amplify the flavors of the curry paste.

Now I am really itching for some red curry. 

To recap: curry is doable, and worth it from a deliciousness standpoint, but it’s fussy. I have to go to a whole separate market to get the lime leaves. And the lime leaves and the lemongrass need to be washed and bruised. And the curry itself has to cook down for awhile. It’s worth it, but it’s not an everyday stir fry for me. 

Same goes for fire fry, which is quite possibly my favorite stir fry of all time. It’s a process. Measuring out all the spices, and marinating the meat, and chopping the ginger and garlic (or pulling pre-chopped ginger and pre-diced garlic out of the fridge), and chopping the onion, and letting everything cook down. 

It’s amazing, but it’s not a task I want to undertake every week. 

So what I want to know is: What else is there, stir-fry sauce-wise?

That sounded very Carrie Bradshaw of me, if Carrie Bradshaw spent all her money on woks and Penzey’s spices instead of Manolo Blahniks. 

I have never really ventured into hoisin sauce territory (but I am suspicious it would be a lot like soy sauce). I have tried oyster sauce, in beef with broccoli, and again: it’s very similar, in my mind, to soy sauce. I am a little leery of sticky sweet sauces or sauces that involve peanuts in any form, although not opposed, you understand. I am just hopeful that there are all sorts of other stir fry sauces that I am overlooking, somehow, and I want options. Lots and lots of options. 

Obviously, I can google. But I want to know your tried-and-true stir fry go-tos. I have a bunch of broccoli and zucchini and bell peppers in my fridge, just DYING to be stir fried. Please help me help them fulfill their veggie destiny.

Dinners for the Week of March 1-March 7

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Last week was a call week, which are just… awful. This one was particularly rough – really hard on my husband, who already finds call extra stressful, and hard on my kid, who still finds it strange and unsettling that her father is suddenly unavailable for a week. And, although it is the least hard on me, it is harder on me than normal because it is seven days of solo parenting and taking care of all of the day-to-day stuff my husband usually shares with me. On top of call week, today was a school holiday. So I just experienced three active, full, wonderful days with my daughter, and one of those days included a dental appointment (mine) and all three days required an hour-plus of driving, twice on the freeway which I loathe. I also made a phone call I have been putting off (please clap) and had to leave a message (argh). There is somehow copious amounts of dirty laundry in To Wash piles on my floor AND copious amounts of clean laundry on the guest bed waiting for me to fold it. (Don’t hold your breath.) (I did manage to wash everyone’s sheets and make the beds.) None of this sounds particularly trying, or worse than normal, but I am exhausted and ready to get back to our non-call week routine. 

Because it was a call week, we did a lot of on-the-fly meal decision making, and I did last-minute trips to the store to pick up pre-made foods a couple of times. We ordered pizza last night. We only made a few of the things on my meal plan last week. That’s fine. That’s how it goes. 

As I type this, Carla is watching TV (which I don’t usually allow on school nights) and eating a snack dinner. Snack dinner is one of my biggest parenting “hacks” (if you can call it a hack instead of “being lazy” which clearly I am choosing to do) because it allows me to put together a quick and easy no-cook meal in minutes, with things I have lying around. Pepperoni or ham, cheddar cheese or Babybel cheese, fruit, tomatoes, broccoli, sugar snap peas, mini bagels and cream cheese, capers, olives, guacamole, crackers or chips or toast. It’s not a long list, but we usually have most of those things lying around. Snack dinners also allow me to give Carla “just a taste” of things that she might not otherwise consider edible. For instance, we bought a watermelon radish at the store today because Carla was curious about it. Curiosity means opportunity to extend Carla’s list of acceptable foods, so I bought one. It can go in the salad I am making this week. 

Yes, that is a My Little Pony plate. Carla now prefers the regular china, but I still try to give her the cute kids’ plates when I can get away with it. I have asked her, and she is not ready for me to dispose of the cute kids’ plates. She just doesn’t want to use them all the time.

I also added mini cucumbers to her plate. She LOVES pickles (although we are no longer going through them a jar per week), so why does she not love cucumbers? This baffles me, even though I LOVE pickles and do not like cucumbers; I do, at least, keep forcing myself to buy and eat cucumbers because it makes no sense. They are THE SAME THING. Also in cucumber bafflement, why is it that you can either buy an enormous English cucumber that will feed you for a week, if you eat the cucumber every night of that week, or feed you for a meal or two and then slowly disintegrate into mush in your crisper… OR you can buy a package of teeny cucumbers that will definitely get soft and squishy before you can eat all of them… but you can buy a single “one-serving” zucchini, which looks identical to a cucumber but is not, no problem? WHY. I demand choose-your-portion cucumbers! I demand it!

As long as we are being devil-may-care with the rules, I am having a glass of wine, which has nothing whatsoever to do with my cucumber demands. Holidays/days when the kids are off of school still count as the weekend, right? Right. I am drinking Kirkland brand Prosecco rose from Costco and I love it. It is bubbly AND pink. Doubly fun. I have been avoiding going to Costco, even though we are rapidly running out of the things we buy exclusively there (kitchen garbage bags, dishwasher detergent, microwave bacon yes I know, butter), but perhaps I can use the promise of MORE Prosecco rose as a carrot to get me to go. I am annoyed that rose doesn’t have the appropriate accent but not annoyed enough to fix it.

Oh. Right. Dinners.

Dinners for the Week of February 21-27

  • Chicken Romano with Parmesan Roasted Broccoli: I am just OFF chicken. Urgh. I think I am off ground beef, too, which is unfortunate. Thank goodness there are so many fish in the sea, and on the grocery store counter! If I start being squicked out by fish… maybe I become a vegetarian? I like beans well enough, although they don’t particularly care for me. 
  • Asian Salad: Once again, I will be eating salmon. I bought my husband a pre-marinated teriyaki chicken breast. We will add mandarin oranges, sugar snap peas, red bell pepper, scallions, and the aforementioned watermelon radish.
  • Carnitas Tacos: This sounds yummy. (So far, pork and I are still friends.) And I could totally use a crockpot meal this week.
  • Shrimp with Zucchini Noodles: I have a hankering for shrimp scampi, but the last time I made it, it was a disaster. So this is NOT shrimp scampi. It is “garlic butter shrimp with zucchini noodles.” (Or, as I first typed it, shrim with noddles, and then I corrected that to shimp with nooooodles. I am tired.)
  • Takeout: This is the week of my birthday, so I am planning to order Mexican takeout and stuff myself with enchiladas and cake. (P.S. Colleen and I share the same birthday! If you are up to it, head on over to her blog and give her some birthday love.) 

The verdict on the watermelon radish is that it is TOO SPICY. (She ate the smallest possible sliver and spat it out. Sigh.) And I STILL don’t want to go to Costco.

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Happy Valentine’s Day, Internet! I hope you have some of your favorite treats today. And, in case you need a little nudge, it is perfectly fine to buy yourself flowers, if you like flowers! They are still mood-boosting, even if you are the one paying for them! 

We don’t do anything for Valentine’s Day around here, except for cards and a little bit of candy. We had Treat Foods yesterday (ribs! chips and guacamole!) for the Super Bowl, so I am all treat-fooded-out today.

Let’s see. Dinners? Dinners.

Dinners for the Week of February 14 – February 20

Sheet Pan Parmesan Salmon with Broccoli: One pan, easy peasy, with literally a lemon squeezy. I am going to make chicken for my husband, who does not like salmon, and salmon for myself, who is OFF chicken right now.

Beef and Snow Pea Stir Fry: This sounds so good to me right now. And also easy, I hope?

Bang Bang Shrimp Pasta: Totally new-to-me recipe, but sounds very different from what we normally eat around here. I know shrimp isn’t my husband’s favorite protein, but I am taking him at his word that “I will literally eat anything you make, I don’t care.”

Baked Pork Chops with Zucchini: This meal isn’t giving me the heart eyes or anything, but it sounds easy and we already have pork chops AND zucchini on hand.

Asian Steak Salad: This sounds fresh and different. Last week, on a whim, I grabbed a bag of wonton strips and basically I need a non-chicken meal to go with them. This should do the trick.

What are you craving this week?

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