Post # 42 What’s For Dinner?

September 5, 2012 at 10:10 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 42 What’s For Dinner?

For most Americans, the main meal comes in the evening called dinner or supper.  It’s the one where the family gathers around the tv trays in the living room and watch tv while eating what is put in front of them.  It’s the same question that faces every cook every day.  It gets old.  Most cooks create a repertoire of menus they rely on.  My mom had about two dozen things she liked to cook, and those same things rotated through kitchen.  They were good things like tacos, spaghetti, pot roast, etc. but they were the same things over and over.  At some point, every cook faces that point where they want to break out of the routine and habitual meals.

My sister-in-law worked in a group home for adults with Downs Syndrome several years ago, and was responsible for feeding them.  It happened at this time that the city used the community service punishment to assist the group homes in yard work.  One of the men was a cook at a restaurant working off a DUI.  My sister-in-law was moaning to him that she needed to make dinner but didn’t know what to fix.  He offered to make dinner that night and she said, “Well, I don’t have much.  We’ve got eggs, milk, cheese, some flour.”  He said not to worry and made a huge cheese souffle that fed the entire group.

When fixing something for dinner, it really takes just knowing what you have and what you can do with it.  It takes being bold, even if all you’re cooking up is hamburger.  I used to make a hamburger stew that was killer.  Other times, I would whip up a batch of biscuit dough from a mix, spread the hamburger stew (cooled completely!) onto the dough then roll it up.  I’d bake it until the dough was completely cooked and everything was hot.  I once “created” a dish I called Mexican Train Wreck.  I had a pound of hamburger that I browned up, added a can of chile then put that in a casserole dish.  I put a layer of cheddar cheese over that, then made up a box of corn muffin mix and spread it over the whole thing.  Then, just because I had them, I added several hot dogs pressed light into the corn muffin mix.  I baked the whole thing until the corn muffin mix was totally baked and golden brown on top.  It was like a chile cheese corn dog.  My mother-in-law fell in love with it and made it for years.

I “created” another favorite dish once by taking two cans of creams of chicken soup and heating them per instructions with a teaspoon of italian herb seasoning.  While that was heating up, I cooked up some broccoli to a crisp but tender stage, and boiled up some linguine.  When everything was ready, I tossed the pasta in the chicken sauce, added some parmesan cheese, and put on plates with the broccoli.  Turned out very nice and very cheap!  I’ve actually served this to guests as a chicken spaghetti and they’ve loved it.

What’s for dinner can be a scary question, and lots of times I just don’t feel the answer until panic sets in.  Tonight, I have chicken thighs.  What the heck am I gonna do with chicken thighs.   The last time I made chicken thighs, I made a stir fry with sugar pea pods, and cashew nuts.  However, today, I think I’ll do a riff on chicken wings.  I’ll fry them up till they’re crispy skinned and done, and then toss them in barbecue sauce of some kind.  What goes well with chicken wings?  French fries and cole slaw!  I’ve got the stuff for that!  Now the question of what to make for dinner is solved.

One of the best tools for figuring out the answer to What’s For Dinner? is the internet!  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to make something and turned to the computer for inspiration.  My donut search is still on, and I peruse the ‘net all the time.  All you need to do is start up your favorite search engine (that program that allows you to plug in a key phrase and shows you a bunch of websites; my favorite is Bing), plug in your ingredient, and see what happens.  If you’ve got lamb, look for lamb recipes.  You’d be amazed at what comes back.  Or, if you have a favorite cooking site, see if they have an ingredient to recipe function.  I love those!

The key is to not be afraid to leave the tried and true recipe list behind.  Once I took over the cooking in my family, my mom got more interested in cooking because I was doing different things than she was used to.  You’ll find that your recipe list increases as much as rising bread dough.  See what I did there?   A cooking metaphor for a food blog!

Enjoy!

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