What’s for Dinner: Week of 8/10/15


Sometimes I feel like the most mundane things are potentially the most helpful. I see friends looking for dinner inspiration on the regular–even with the whole wide web to search. Menu planning is something I’ve done pretty much since I moved away from home in ’95–I honestly cannot fathom how you’re supposed to go grocery shopping without knowing what you’re going to cook the next week! It’s my week to cook, so here’s this week’s menu, along with some notes about planned substitutions (both for ingredient availability as well as Low-FODMAP adjustments).

Monday: Orange Chicken with Brown Rice and Spinach
The only adjustment I need to make for the Panda Express Orange Chicken Copycat recipe from KitchMe.com is substituting a wheat-free flour for to regular flour called for.

Tuesday: One Pot Lemon Orzo Shrimp
From DamnDelicious,net, this recipe assumes you have a dish that will go from the stovetop to the oven. Somehow I have yet to add one of these to my kitchen arsenal, so it won’t be quite one-pot, but it’ll still be fairly low-mess. Our local stores have started stocking gluten-free orzo again so we stocked up, I’ll use garlic olive oil and green onions for their counterparts in the recipe, and whatever frozen vegetables we have on hand.

Wednesday: Mongolian Beef, Rice and Spring Rolls
Another copycat, this time of PF Chang’s from Jo Cooks. Aside from the garlic oil for the garlic, this recipe is okay as is. The spring rolls are store-bought and while I could detour to Whole Foods for some gluten free ones, I opted not to. Overall Low-FODMAP isn’t as strict as allergy-level cautions, so a little wheat here and there isn’t going to hurt (it’s actually good to test tolerance levels regularly once the initial elimination period is over).

Thursday: Chicken Enchilada Zucchini Boats
From Cooking Classy, I’m going to use pre-cooked chicken breasts (I have several cans left from one of our Sam’s club trips), skip the onion as unnecessary with all the other spices going on, and use a sour cream substitute in the toppings. I’ll also use a can of strained diced tomatoes over the sauce called for–sauces usually involve tomato paste, and the concentrated tomato-ness can be a bit of a tummy-turner.

Friday: Latkes and Sausage Links
No recipe here, just shredded potatoes, seasoning, and a bit of egg to bind them. On our last Sam’s run we bought a huge carton of dehydrated shredded potatoes, just to see if they were any good (we do hash browns a fair bit). They actually work really well and I’ve used them in casseroles and as nests for fried eggs.

Saturday: Crock Pot Pork Taco Bowls
Spinning off from the Clean Eating Chicken Taco recipe on Dashing Dish, I’m subbing a pork roast I already had in the freezer and adding cheese to the other toppings. I’ll go ahead and put a jar of prepared salsa into the crock pot, but skip the tomatoes with green chilies as I think it’ll be unnecessary. I don’t usually use the slow cooker on weekends, but I’ve found that I’m more likely to not want to cook on the weekends, so this is my attempt to curb the take-out cravings.

Sunday: Dinner out with friends
A meetup group we joined ages ago always meets on the 3rd Sunday to hang out and then go to dinner. We could end up anywhere from a burger place to sushi, just depends on the whims of the group on the day.

There’s always a chance that any of the above nights might get scuttled due to unforseen events (or just plain not wanting to cook). The orange chicken, for instance, was a skipped recipe from 2 weeks ago when we had an unexpected take-out night. I try not to do it more than once a week, if even that often, because it messes up our lunch plans. Of course, if we manage to cook all nights then that usually puts us a day or two ahead on lunches, which makes the occasional night off not so big a deal.

A Big Summer Salad


Last week we wandered down the soup for all seasons path. This week, let’s talk leafy, green, studded-with-savories salads.

While salads are not restricted to any one time of year, have you ever found yourself really craving their crisp, coolness on a hot summer day? When the thought of heavier food just makes you lose your appetite completely?

Greek Salad

our Greek salad to go with last night's Pastitsio

Salads, I think, have a bad reputation among some folks. Either they’re considered rabbit food, “girl” food or, worse, diet food by your traditional carnivores. Not all salads are created equal, though, and one of my favorite salad indulgences is what I call the “Salad Bar” salad.

Inspired, obviously, by the array of options on the standard casual-dining restaurant salad bar, this isn’t a side salad or an opener to a meal, it’s the meal itself!

Here are the basic components:

  • Romaine lettuce (iceberg is almost all water, no substance, at least start with a better foundation)
  • Diced ham or turkey
  • Chopped hard-boiled eggs
  • Shredded cheese
  • Chopped veggies: mushrooms, tomatoes, cucumbers
  • Crumbled bacon
  • Dried fruit like raisins, cranberries or blueberries
  • Nuts or sunflower seeds
  • and, of course, Croutons and the salad dressing of your choice

This isn’t a complicated salad, but it’s great for a quick mid-week supper.

Fool-Proof Soup

Medieval Borscht

Soup for a Seasons

Don’t relegate your soup suppers to late fall and winter, soups make excellent meals year-round, can be made with just about anything and are virtually fool-proof to boot!

Often when you hear someone reference soups in summer it’s cold soups they’re talking about: vichyssoise or fruit soups used as an appetizer light lunch with salad. Frankly, cold soups leave me… cold; they often have odd textures and incomplete flavors. Instead, we have hot soups once a week or so, paired with warm rolls, a salad or sandwiches depending on the soup.

One of the most common reasons for making soup is a what-are-we-going-to-do-with-this vegetable from the farmers’ market. Frequently it’s the quart of field peas or beans that seemed like a good idea until you get home and make your menu. But plenty of other vegetables–fresh, frozen or dried–make excellent soup starters.

I like to make my soups in the slow cooker whenever possible (which is most times)–it’s convenient and doesn’t heat up the kitchen very much, not to mention the great feeling of having dinner ready when you get home from work or wherever you’ve spent your day. Left on high for 8 hours or low for 4 is all it takes.

The other awesome thing about soups is that, really, you don’t need much of any sort of recipe. It’s pretty difficult to screw up a batch of soup, but having some pointers certainly won’t hurt:

  • Start with your primary ingredient: beans, lentils or dried peas, chicken pieces or stew meat are good places to start.
  • Add flavorings: an onion, a couple of garlic cloves (minced), salt, pepper and a bay leaf are my go-to flavor choices for almost all my soups.
  • Finish with enough stock to cover all the ingredients. When setting up your soup the night before and using anything that sucks up liquid (e.g. dried beans, pasta or grains), wait to add your broth or stock until just before starting  the soup.

Now that’s just the basics. You can add any number of additional ingredients that you have on hand. Toss in some diced tomatoes, carrots and green beans. Try hard squashes or potatoes added to your basic soup with a bit of nutmeg or garam masala. Maybe some kale or spinach towards the end of the cooking time, or barley or quinoa. Sliced-up sausage adds amazing flavor, as do some smoked chicken wings or ham hocks–perfect when you want the flavor without meat being the main course.

So go ahead and ignore the “conventional wisdom” of anti-soup summers and toss together a soup for an easy meal this week.