Friday, March 28, 2014

What's for Dinner?

"So...uh...what do you want to have for dinner tonight?" I usually ask this question to Dan everyday.  I am not sure why I ask him, because I either get crickets or the suggestion that we order pizza or pick up Chick Fil A. Which are not terrible suggestions at all, but it's not like Dan is going to make me think of a magically healthy and easy dinner meal that we have all of the ingredients for at home. He is not a wizard! He cannot make things magically appear! (But wouldn't that be awesome? Not gonna lie, I think I would waste this super power mostly on food.)

I have realized that I am going to have to do some modicum of planning ahead to accomplish this dinner thing. Recently, I ask friends on Facebook for their go-to easy weekday meal. Two weekends ago, I used this to help me make a dinner plan for the week. I ended up not following it exactly, but it did help a ton. It was a lot of work on the front end (because I also made up a grocery list to go with), but I figured I could reuse it in the future. Here was the plan:

Monday – Quiche with Greens
Tuesday – Spaghetti and Meatballs with Crusty Bread
Wednesday - Anna’s Hearty TJ Stew with Crusty Bread
Thursday – Pizza Thursday!
Friday – Veggie Burgers with Sweet Potato Fries and Peas
Saturday - Fish Soft Tacos (optional)
Sunday – Erin’s Chicken Parm with Green Beans

Preparation:
Sunday before: Make quiche, let cool, and refrigerate.
Monday evening: Reheat quiche at 325 for 20 mins. Toss greens with lemon, olive oil, salt & pepper.
Tuesday morning: Put frozen meatballs and marinara in crockpot before work. Low for 8 or 10 hrs.
Tuesday evening: Cook pasta. Serve with the meatballs and sauce.
Wednesday mid-morning: Put soup, beans & pilaf for stew in crockpot. Cook on low for 8 hrs.
Wednesday evening: Toast bread in oven.
Thursday: Order pizza. Open door for pizza guy.
Friday evening: Cook sweet potato fries in oven; microwave veggie burgers and peas.
Saturday: Cook fish in taco seasoning. Set out toppings (shredded lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, cheese).
Saturday evening: Put frozen chicken breast in fridge to defrost.
Sunday late afternoon: pan fry chicken, assemble dish, cook. Steam green beans.

Monday went according to plan (and Dan was a surprising fan of the salad). However, I didn't get around to putting the meatballs and marinara in the crockpot Tuesday morning. I didn't feel great, and the idea of dealing with marinara grossed me out. So Tuesday, I think we had chicken nuggets, sweet potato fries, and peas. This is a super easy dinner, because I basically just have to put the nuggets and fries in the oven, and then microwave the peas. On Wednesday, we had the spaghetti and meatballs. Thursday, we ended up not getting pizza, because we had so many leftover meatballs (note for the future, two packages is too much!). Friday evening, things were a little off, because we ended up having to take Ben to urgent care during dinner time (I talked about that here). So Dan just got Chick Fil A for us on the way home, and Ben had a quick meal of even more leftover meatballs and some green beans.

I put Saturday's meal as "optional," because sometimes we go out for dinner on the weekends. I had forgotten when making the plan that we had actually planned to have dinner with friends that night. However, I had to cancel those plans for a couple of reasons (Dan had a fantasy draft (I didn't check with him beforehand) and Ben was sick). On Saturday evening, we ended up getting takeout with Dan's parents who came for a visit. On Sunday, I didn't feel like cooking the chicken parm, and we had tacos instead (but ground turkey, not fish).

Even though I deviated from the plan EVERY day (except for Monday), it was still really helpful just to have dinner ideas in my head and the groceries to accomplish them in my pantry. This week, I didn't make a plan, but I still had ideas in my head. By the way, I made Anna's Hearty TJ Stew this week (put it in the crockpot on my work from home day), and it was so easy, good, and healthy (I used the butternut squash TH boxed soup). Really checked all of the boxes.

Here are a few of the dinner ideas from my friends:
  • Breakfast for Dinner
  • Grilled Cheese with Ham and Tomato Soup
  • Tacos (fish or ground turkey/chicken/beef)
  • Spaghetti with Meatballs (put frozen meatballs and sauce in crockpot before work).
  • Quiche (two variations of this): Suggestion #1: Eggs or eggbeaters mixed with any creamy salad dressing. Pour into a frozen pie crust, add any kind of veggies or deli meats or whatever you want. Bake at 350 until it's set. Takes about 30 min or so. Suggestion #2: Crustless, just spray a pie pan with Pam then 4 eggs, 1 cup of dairy plus veggies and BACON.
  • Amanda's CafĂ© Rio Chicken: Put the following in the crockpot: 2 lbs chicken breast  (I usually use a little less- 3 breasts whatever that weighs) I just throw them in there, no trimming etc.; 1/2 a small bottle of zesty italian dressing; 1/2 tbsp. minced garlic  ( I put less b/c I don't like garlic, although you can't taste it); 1 pkt ranch dressing mix, mixed with 1/2 cup of water; 1/2 tbsp. chili powder; 1/2 tbsp. ground cumin. Cook on low for 5 hours or whatever your low setting is. I think mine is 6 or 8. It smells really good and the chicken shreds with a fork! We put it in flour tortillas then put some of the juice from cooking on top. Its great over a salad or making nachos with tortilla chips and cheese!
  • Anna's TJ Hearty Stew: 1 box Trader Joe's soup (she likes tomato and roasted red pepper), 1 can white beans, and 1 bag frozen superfood pilaf (quinoa, sweet potato and kale).  Chuck in the pot or slow cooker. Put it in the crockpot in the afternoon (so it gets 3 or 8 hours), or do it for an hour on the stovetop.
  • Stu's Stuffed Tomatoes: Mix equal parts pork sausage filling and ground turkey/chicken. Add one egg per pound. Mix and season with parsley, coriander, salt, and pepper. This can be kept refrigerated for 1-2 days. Now stuff your choice of vegetables. Use big tomatoes and green peppers (four pronged bottoms -- not three). You can also add zucchini and/or eggplants. I preferred eggplant. Cut tops off tomatoes and cut green peppers in half from top to bottom. Scoop out the insides of tomatoes and green peppers, sprinkle with salt, fill with meat. Do the same for any other veg. Replace tops of tomatoes (hats). Put into a pan. Drizzle olive oil on top. Optional: toss vegetable innards with some olive oil, salt, and pepper. Scatter in dish around stuffed veg. Bake uncovered at 400 for 45-60 minutes. Serve with rice and optional toppings. Cover leftovers and it will still be good for a day or two (microwave covered on medium for about 3 min).
  • Erin's Chicken Parm: Preheat the oven to 375. In a shallow bowl (large enough to dredge the cutlets), mix together Italian seasoned breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper. In separate shallow bowl, whisk together an egg or two. Dredge boneless, skinless chicken breast (Use pretty thin chicken pieces. Usually cut them in half length-wise) in the egg, allowing excess to drip off, then dredge chicken in breadcrumbs and set aside. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium to medium high heat (cover bottom of pain w/about 1/4" of oil). Once the oil it hot enough that it sizzles when you drop something in it, cook each side of the chicken until it's golden brown. Don't worry about cooking the chicken all the way through- place on paper towel covered plate to absorb the excess oil. Once the chicken is all cooked, cover the bottom of a baking pan with a thin layer of sauce . Put the chicken into the pan and then just cover with however much sauce you'd like (I completely cover the chicken) and then a layer of shredded mozzarella (or cheese substitute). Cover w/foil and bake it for 25 or 30 minutes. If I'm not serving it right away I let it cool and put it in the fridge still covered with foil. Then when I'm ready to cook it I just put it back in at 350 degrees and cook it until it's hot- usually about half an hour- you can tell by just seeing if the middle is hot.
  • Ruby's Corn Chowder- Two cans of creamed corn, two chopped potatoes, some chicken broth - boil for a while until the potatoes are cooked. Then I fired some chopped onion, tomato and bacon together, drained, and dumped in.  
  • Pork Tenderloins
  • Beefy Mac, Hamburger Helper, Tuna Casserole

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