Post #621 What’s for Dinner? Check The List!

January 13, 2019 at 2:19 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

It’s the same questions that face home cooks across the world every single day in some form or another?  What’s for dinner?  Sometimes it’s easy to answer; other times it seems like the Riddle of the Sphinx.  Commercials on television offer tons of quick and easy idea, and whole industries have sprung up where someone else makes the decision and sends you the ingredients.

Recently I wrote about the kitchen journal and pointed out that in mine the first couple of pages are given to a list of my “go to” meal ideas.  Since then, I’ve had a couple of requests to see that list.  So, I’m recreating it here along with some notes for you about how and what the meals are.  So, in no particular order, here they are:

  • tacos – Partner/Spouse and I both grew up in the southwest, but I was first introduced to tacos while living in northern New York state.  We love these so much, we’ve actually eaten them for lunch, dinner, and breakfast for two or three days running.
  • spaghetti – this is one of our staples.  We always have the ingredients on hand and enough different ones that we can mix it up.  Unfortunately, we always make enough to feed 10 hungry people so our freezer often has a ton of frozen sauce in it.
  • beef onion stew – I “discovered” this playing around one day and it’s amazing.  I’ve blogged about it a couple of times, so search around.  This is delicious.
  • grilled steak salad – at heart, we’re carnivores.  If we don’t get a steak at least once every week or so, we get grumpy.  Our favorite way is to grill the steak on cast iron to medium rare, sprinkle with salt, slice into bite size chunks, and put on top of a tossed green salad.
  • grilled thick pork chops – for us, a pork chop isn’t worth eating unless it’s at least a half inch thick.  It’s a wonderful, flavorful alternative to beef.
  • bangers and mash – this is a British dish that we were introduced to at a pub in Ireland.  It’s fried or grilled sausages served on top of a bowlful of hand-mashed potatoes.  The bangers are huge, not the tiny breakfast sausages, so get ones you like.
  • chicken stir fry – we use an Asian chopped salad bagged mix to make this one as easy as possible.  Rice or fried noodles makes the perfect side dish.
  • lemon pasta with chicken – Our southwest upbringing comes out in this one.  It’s simply chopped garlic heated in olive oil and lemon juice.  Add your favorite cooked pasta and toss to thoroughly coat.  Garnish with basil and lemon zest.  Cooked chicken chunks go well inside the dish or on the side.  We sometimes add a tablespoon of butter to bring the sauce together.
  • senate bean soup – This is an old recipe, one that’s served in the Senate cafeteria every day by Presidential Order from Thomas Jefferson.  The beans are cooked with a salty ham.  Once they’ve reached the stage of busting their skins and becoming creamy, tomatoes are added with celery and shredded carrots.  Some people with use a blender to puree the soup, but I like the chunks of beans and ham and veggies.
  • BLTs – ‘Nuff said.  Moving on.
  • burgers and fries – We love a good greasy burger with chips, fries, or tater tots on the side.  Oh!  And a dill pickle.  And it’s easy.
  • meatloaf – There are so many different ways to make this one that it’s a genre to itself.  We go with standard onion soup and bread crumb process, but we’ve played around with whatever we have on hand, too.  I very often add shredded potato and carrot to it.
  • lasagna – This is one that we have to plan for, but it’s always worth it.  Even when it turns out bad, it’s always worth it.
  • pizza – We love this stuff too.  We’ve made it entirely from scratch starting with the dough, to buying cardboard pizza frozen at the store.  There’s just something about tomato sauce and cheese on bread.
  • grinders – This is just the local name for a sub sandwich.  We throw one of these down our throats about once a month or so.
  • eggs and bacon or sausage – All the time!  When we want it easy and fast with little or no clean up, this what we turn to.  Sometimes we’ll do biscuits; other times we’ll do toast.  Sometimes we will have home fries, or hash browns, or shredded and fried potatoes and onions with it.
  • chili – I never liked my mom’s chili as I was growing up.  But as I grew older and my tastes changed, I started experimenting with it.  I read about different flavor combos and cut the onion my mom loved so much by more than half, and suddenly I could eat it.
  • pot roast – Any good roast done to perfection in a slow oven is beyond good.  Throw some garlic in with it and it gets better.
  • appetizers – We do this all the time.  Even when we go out to eat, or order Chinese take away, we’ll often just do appetizers and call it good.
  • mac and cheese – This is one of my guilty pleasures.  I love this stuff.
  • shepherd’s pie – This is traditionally made with lamb, but we typically use hamburger.  Hamburger, gravy, favorite veggies in a dish covered with mashed potatoes and baked.  So good.
  • omelets – Okay, so we don’t do the French way of making these, but we like them just the same.  We also do the Italian variation called frittata.
  • big salad – I’ve even the big salad since I was a teen ager.  I also call this the trash salad because everything that would have ended up in the trash in a few days goes into it (as long as it’s safe to eat!)  A squeeze of lemon juice and lime juice as a dressing, then throw your face into it.
  • chicken and rice – This is a gumbo style meal that I make in the slow cooker.  Chicken chunks, chicken broth, lots of garlic, and a cup of rice cooked in the crock pot for a few hours.  Sometimes carrot and celery are added.  Scooped into a bowl and topped with cheese and it’s a terrific winter meal, even though we eat it all year long.
  • sausage biscuits – So this is typically a breakfast meal for us, but we’ve been know to eat breakfast for dinner on more than one occasion.
  • baked potato dinner – We do this all the time.  A large potato bake till it’s done and the skin is crispy.  We top with our favorite stuff, and go to town.  For me, it’s usually cheese and bacon bits, but sometimes it’s chili and cheese.
  • carne asada/guisada – These are basically the same dish except the cooking method.  Carne is Spanish for meat.  Usually a skirt steak if your grilling; that’s the asada.  Typically a cheaper cut roast if you’re stewing; that’s the guisada.  But the Mexican seasonings are the same and will make you cry, they’re so good.
  • cabbage rolls – We love cabbage at our house, and cabbage rolls are an extension of that.  Ground meat stuffed into cabbage leaves and cooked.  That’ll get anyone up and running.
  • burritos – Another Mexican meal, but instead of corn tortillas, you use flour tortillas.  Instead of a single fold, it’s rolled and the fillings are encased.  And the fillings are as varied as any other Mexican food.  My favorite is refried beans, cheese, and spicy beef.
  • crackers and cheese – I do this for lunch all the time.  So good.
  • baked chicken – Standard fare, but easy and flexible.  You can use butter and lemon, honey and lemon, barbecue sauce, olive oil and herbs, salt and pepper, raspberry vinaigrette, anything you can think of to change it up.
  • pasta salad – Cold cooked pasta, shredded cheese, sunflower seeds, and vinaigrette, and you’ve got a pasta salad.  I throw a pasta salad together for lunch or dinner all the time.
  • risotto – This is a labor of love, but totally worth it.  You need a specific grain of rice for this, and you have to follow the steps properly.  But you can dress it up to taste any way you like.
  • chicken lettuce wraps – This is one we stole from a restaurant, and found the sauce in a packet at the store.  Sauté chicken breast and thigh that has been cut to small pieces with onion and garlic.  Add the sauce and turn off the heat.  Pull leaves of lettuce off the head and add the chicken and some crispy noodles and shovel them down your throat.  Good stuff.
  • fried chicken – So really, who doesn’t like fried chicken?
  • lentil soup – This is one that I’ve eaten since college.  Lentils cook so quickly and if you make the broth a tangy one, it complements the lentils and the veggies so well.
  • roasted veggies – We throw a bunch of root veggies and cruciferous veggies cut into same sized chunks and tossed in olive oil.  Roasted at high heat until cooked and crispy, then salted lightly.  Eat ’em all quick.
  • porcupine meatballs – seasoned meatballs with rice cooked slowly in a tomato sauce.  When the rice expands, it pokes out of the meatball looking a little like porcupine quills.
  • mock lasagna casserole – This is a favorite.  Any shape cooked pasta, tossed with leftover marina sauce and a ton of cheese into a baking dish and cooked until hot and bubbly.
  • spaghetti carbonara – The heat from the cooked spaghetti will cook the eggs and cheese to make a sauce that’s delicious and silky.
  • chicken and dumplings – old fashioned standby
  • barbecued country style pork ribs – We love the fork tender, fall apart goodness of these slow cooked ribs.  And it really doesn’t take too long.
  • herbed pork roast – We love a good pork roast whatever its cut.  It’s like a blank canvas to carry flavors.
  • beef burgundy – This one is so yummy that I’ve blogged about it a couple of times.

I’ve blogged about most of these recipes, but if you have questions about any of them, just ask me.  I’ll be happy to blog about them again.

The point of The List is to jog your memory.  We’ve tried a ton of recipes we’ve gleaned from tv shows, magazines, eating out, and farmer’s markets.  Some of those recipes were great and made it onto The List.  Others were problematic, complicated, or just didn’t suit our tastes so they aren’t on The List.  When I was living with my sister and her husband during college, once a month, she and I would sit down and plan out every evening meal for the month and write it on a calendar.  Then we’d figure out what we needed to buy and would go get it.  We scoured cookbooks and experimented.  I loved it; she hated it.  The List is a compromise for that effort.

Two of my favorite tv chefs (both Italian) are “fly by the seat of your pants” cooks.  They go to their gardens, and their pantries, and they figure out what to cook by what they have on hand.  I’ve done that, when it’s just me.  When I first moved out on my own, I planned meals for a week, and shopped once a week.  The things I made were so good, I’d just buy the same things every week.  It worked for me, even though I got into a rut.

So, I hope this helps out a little.  And share things that are on your list.  I’m always looking to make my list longer.  One day, it might even turn into a cookbook.  Who knows?

So today, I’m making No-Knead Artisan bread to go with a White Bean and Escarole soup I saw Lidia Bastianich cook the other night.  I’ll let you know how that goes!

And as always,

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