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Posts Tagged ‘meal rut’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dinners for the Week of July 16-July 22

  • Tacos

Note: Taco Tuesday, baby!

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

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

  • Grilled Chicken with Quinoa Salad

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

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

  • Grilled Pork Chops or Steak with Roasted Green Beans

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

  • Grilled Chicken with Side Salad

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

  • Out

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

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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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