Monthly Archives: January 2015

Things I Like to Make for Dinner

January 2

Despite being surrounded by restaurants (I can count eight on our physical block alone), Scott and I eat dinner at home most nights. The reasons for this are the standard ones. It’s cheaper, it’s healthier, and we generate less waste with home cooked food.

As the primary meal planner, I sometimes start to run dry on dinnertime ideas (it happens to the best of us, even those who make a living inventing recipes). Many years ago, a blogger I followed posted a list of her favorite dinners, in an attempt to create a well of ideas that she could turn to when she hit a wall.

After years of thinking it would be a good thing to do for myself, here is my list. The things we like to eat for dinner, in no particular order.

  • Turkey burgers (good side options include roasted sweet potatoes, roasted carrots, steamed and buttered broccoli, or cauliflower puree)
  • Turkey meatloaf
  • Teriyaki salmon with broccoli
  • Joy’s chicken and ricotta meatballs (eat over braised kale when being healthy, over pasta or polenta the rest of the time)
  • Roasted chicken, preferably on a bed of carrots and onions
  • Chicken soup (typically made the same week as the roast chicken above)
  • Ground beef soup
  • Chicken or beef fajita salads (topped with the roasted corn salsa from my first book. So! Good!)
  • Turkey tacos with cumin slaw
  • Oven-roasted nachos (that’s what pictured up at the top of this post)
  • Shredded chicken or ground turkey chili
  • Broccoli or cauliflower and cheese soup
  • Carrot soup with ham croutons
  • Sausage, kale, and white bean soup
  • Quinoa salad with lots of vegetables and feta
  • Beef meatballs with feta and red onion
  • Ranch steaks (they are little, quick-cooking steaks that I get from Meadow Run Farm and keep in the freezer. They defrost quickly and are perfect for nights when I didn’t plan well) with whatever sides are around
  • Broiled turkey kielbasa with braised cabbage with leeks and lemons
  • Pulled pork (braised in one part jam and one part apple cider vinegar)
  • Sauerkraut soup (If you have leftover pulled pork or braised brisket, use that instead of the bacon)
  • Split pea soup
  • Curried red lentil soup (I only make this when Scott is out of town, as he’s not a curry fan)
  • Tuna salad on salad greens
  • Beef stew
  • Pot roast (delicious and when I make it, I use a ton of vegetables and serve it on top of braised kale for extra greenery)
  • Mexican rice bowl bar (best for when we have guests who have different dietary needs. Line up brown rice, beans, crumbed beef or turkey, chopped lettuce, salsa, grated cheese, sour cream, and avocado on the counter and let everyone build their own)
  • Cauliflower mac and cheese (sometimes made without the mac and with a tiny bit of bacon [turkey or otherwise] for a lower carb version)
  • Kale salad with avocado (this is another one I make only when Scott’s not home for dinner)
  • Fried rice with a ton of vegetables (made almost exclusively with leftover rice from Chinese take-out)
  • Spatchcocked chicken with Dutch oven broccoli (that Whole Chicken Project is a gold mine of useful recipes)
  • Tamale pie
  • Chicken pot pie
  • Shepherd’s pie
  • No-cook pasta sauce
  • Pizzas made on a sunflower seed crust (these are a favorite when Scott is avoiding carbs)

And here are some things that aren’t currently part of my regular rotation, but I’d love to pull them in to our dinner hours occasionally. Though I’m not sure any of them will appeal to Scott.


January 8

It is brutally cold outside. According to my phone, it is currently 18°F and it will drop down to 16°F before the day is done. I ventured out earlier today to meet a friend and pick up a few groceries wearing my second heaviest coat (the very heaviest one is hard wear while walking) and have no intention of setting foot outside again today.

I am drinking hot, milky tea, have put on a heavy, army green wool sweater that has been with me since college, and have even turned the heat on for a little while (the heat that drifts in from our hallways is often enough to keep the apartment comfortable).

I feel intensely grateful for the tea, the sweater, the heat, and while we’re at it, the cozy home. May we all be so lucky.

January 5

much-needed veg

You know all those resolutions I mentioned over the weekend? Forget ’em. My real resolution for this year is simply to keep up with the dishes. I cook a lot and so the tide of dirty things in my sink seems never to end (and I’m even in possession of a functional dishwasher).

Because my kitchen is small, I have no option but to clean as I work. If I don’t, I quickly run out of places to put things and my ability to make dinner or test recipes for the current blog/book/freelance project quickly grinds to a halt (you have not lived until you’ve seen me spinning in circles with a hot pot and no place to put it. Truly, it’s a sight).

I do a fairly good job keeping up with the daytime flow. The place where I falter is with the final round of dinner dishes. So often, by the time we’ve eaten, I’m just done with the kitchen. One answer might be to get Scott to do some dishes, but that doesn’t always go as hoped (we occasionally have different definitions of the word clean). And so in my late night haze, I leave dishes in the sink to deal with the next day.

Trouble is, I hate waking up to a pile of dirty plates and pots. This comes in large part from my early childhood training. My mom couldn’t go to sleep until the sink was emptied and the counters were wiped. While I’m not as severely afflicted as she, I do end up indulging in a little self-flagellation on the nights when I leave pans to soak.

As I’ve written this, I’m starting to think that maybe the solution is just to come to grips with my imperfections instead of holding myself to an impossible standard. Who knows. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some dishes to do.

January 2

20th Street

It’s the beginning of January, which means it’s the time of year to open fresh journals, attempt to start new habits, and take to the internet to declare the many ways in which you want to change yourself in the fresh, new year.

I am not immune to this instinct to resolve. This blog turns tens years old next month and it includes an impressive archive of hopeful, goal-oriented posts published on the first or second of the year (2008/2009/2010/2011/2014).

I’ve spent the last week or so thinking about my intentions are for the coming year, and I realize that more than anything, I want to keep it simple. I deeper into the specifics I get, the more opportunities for stumbling I create.

  1. Focus on the goodness – I am the type who can get a barrel of praise but still manages to fixate on the one negative comment. I’m working on turning that around.
  2. Let go – Of physical stuff, obligations that no longer serve, comparisons, and shame.
  3. Enjoy – I worked really hard over the last year, had a number of really amazing experiences and successes, and didn’t manage to relish it nearly enough.
  4. Move – Keep walking, running, and stretching. Not to lose weight or get fitter (though if those things happen, great), but simply to feel good and get more oxygen into my lungs.
  5. Create – Writing is my work, but it started as something I did because I loved it. Time to do a little more of it for me (here, perhaps?).