What to Make for Dinner When You’re Absolutely Uninspired


It doesn’t happen often (thankfully!) but every now and then I’ll sit down to make out the next week’s menu only to find that nothing sounds good. It’s not a matter of not being hungry (planning hungry means everything sounds good, right?), just of being disinterested.

Sure, I could have decided to go to the store without a list or a menu and pick up what looked okay and figure out the details later, or pick up enough for the first couple of nights and wait to decide on the rest, but I know where that leads: no plan means nothing defrosted adhead of time and a marked increase in the chances of us going out or getting something delivered. And that’s neither good for the wallet or the waistlne!

So I pulled what I could from Pinterest and magazines, listed basic components needed for a meal to be discovered later or two, and eventually filled 5 of the 7 days. Good enough–I at least had the week down and the weekend could be dealt with when we got there.This worked out surprisingly well, it turned out, as we had a couple of occasions to go out come up and my mystery meal nights were both successful experiments.

While I certainly hope the ideas flow easiernext time, I guess it’s good to prove even the uninspired weeks don’t have to be culinary black holes.

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Monday: BBQ Chicken-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

While we’re certainly no strangers to savory sweet potatoes, I saw recipes for stuffed sweet potatoes in at least 2 magazines this past month, so it must be a new trend. Todd had roasted a chicken over the weekend and we had plenty left over to make a second meal. This worked well for both my lack of inspiration as well as economics, and the recipe came together quickly for a Monday night meal.


Tuesday: Sandwiches, Chips and Grapes

What are we, kids? Every time we get or make sandwiches for supper I always say we need to do it more often, so it was an easy choice for the second day’s supper. Sometimes I need to remember that not all meals must be gourmet or even inventive, classics are cool. And by planning for the sandwiches I was able to remember to have lettuce and toato on hand to elevate it from the quick snack a simple sandwich sometimes is.


Wednesday: La Fogata Mexican Restaurant

My coworker kindly reminded us that Wednesday was National Margarita Day and even if I know it’s a made-up holiday, most likely by the tequila industry, we were happy to celebrate with dinner at a local Mexican place. Their Presidente margarita is my happy place, and the food is always reliable. I went with the House Platter (and half went home to be eaten later), but it was a good, spontaneous night out.


Thursday: Mystery Meal 1: sausage + pasta + carrots

While it would have been a perfectly acceptable meal to grill the sausages, boil the carrots, and dress the pasta with olive oil and Parmesan cheese and call it a night, what I ended up doing was adding a can of artichoke hearts from the pantry to the sliced sausages, boil the carrots along with the pasta, and combine it all with some chicken base (a step up from bouillon, try it!) and the solid portion of a can of coconut milk. The smoked sausage and the soup base had plenty of seasoning between them, and the coconut milk solids made for a rich, creamy sauce that was still light and easily clung to the other ingredients.


Friday: Eggroll In a Bowl + Teriyaki Chicken

I’ve had the deconstructed eggroll dish in my Pinterest file for a while and decided tonight was as good a night as any to try it out. I worried about how substantial it would be (rightly so) so I picked up a package of chicken thighs and baked them in a mixture of soy and teriyaki sauces with a bit of brown sugar and lemon juice tossed in. I should have paid a touch more attention when I was shopping, though, as I picked up hot sausage rather than medium or mild–oops! Todd enjoyed it just fine, I needed to doctor my portion with a healthy dose of yummy sauce to lessen the heat.


Saturday: Liam’s meat and cheese board and crab dip (to-go)

Saturday night, downtown Thomasville was showing Frozen on an outdoor screen and since Todd and I are just big kids pretending at being grown-ups (and we hadn’t seen Frozen yet–I know!) we decided to partake of the festivities and actually go this time (we say ‘that would be fun’ a lot and end up tired or otherwise engaged and miss a lot of what we intend to do downtown; we’re working on it). The email from the visitor’s center mentioned Liam’s Lounge and Cheese Shop would have items for take-out available; we thought that meant they’d have a booth or table out at the movie site, but that was not the case. The three blocks uphill were totally worth it, though, as the cheese, crackers, charcuterie, crab dip, and giardinere made a wonderful picnic as we got settled into our spot in the open lot and let our inner children enjoy the movie fully. (We were getting some major side-eye from the grandmother next to us for laughing along with the rest of the kids. In her defense, she’s probably had to sit through the movie so many times that she’s more than over it by now, but still!)


Sunday: Mystery Meal #2 ground beef + rice + peas

After emptying the pantry of all its contents at 7 something in the evening (a sortie of ants decided to check out that corner of the kitchen, much to our dismay–it’s an ongoing struggle in this house but, thankfully, they didn’t get into any of the food, just were being a nuisance), at least I knew exactly what pantry items I had to work with!

I cooked the brown rice with water and coconut milk (when in doubt, add coconut milk is my motto this week, I suppose) in the rice cooker. Meanwhile I browned the ground beef, added a pouch of frozen peas, and stirred in a healthy dollop of beef base, some cumin, coriander, celery salt, and pepper, and let it simmer for a while. The coconut milk and water make almost a porridge of the rice, sort of like a congee, but went well with the not quite a curry beef and pea mixture (which was thickened with a cornstarch slurry). It was a good comfort meal type of dish.

Not surprisingly, the things that saved us from a surfeit of take out this week were a well-stocked pantry and a willingness to experiment. This probably goes for any week, really, but it’s more so on the uninspired weeks.

Spinach-Artichoke Fondue & Other Meals


For New Year’s Eve we kept with tradition and had fondue for two at home in the living room while watching a movie leading up to the ball drop. This year’s movie was Secret Life of Pets and this year’s fondue was Spinach-Artichoke. The movie was enjoyable but the fondue was far superior.


Spinach-Artichoke Fondue

8 oz Swiss cheese, shredded
4 oz Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 Tbsp flour (or gluten-free flour blend)
1 c white wine
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
pinch nutmeg
2.5 oz baby spinach, chopped
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
3/4 c mayonnaise
1/4 c Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Mix shredded cheeses with flour and set aside.

Heat white wine to a simmer then add cheese mixture by handfuls, stirring constantly for each addition to melt and incorporate.

Stir in mustard, nutmeg, spinach, artichoke hearts, mayo, and Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

If the fondue is too stiff, you can thin with additional wine and/or mayonnaise, depending on your preference.

Keep warm and melty in a fondue pot and serve with bread cubes, vegetables, and anything else you feel like.

We had a mix of high and low and the gluten-free corn dogs were surprisingly good dipped into the spinach-artichoke fondue.

What did the rest of the week look like?


On Christmas we set up a large grazing station since it was just the two of us and we planned to laze around the house pretty much all day. The mixture of charcuterie, cheese, cookies, fruit, and bread was great all day, and we heated up some pirogi towards the end of the evening to add something new to the spread.


While it was tempting to nosh on what was left of the grazing board the next day, too, I dragged myself into the kitchen to prepare pork chops, green beans, and Bacon-Cheddar Hasselback Potatoes. The potatoes were delicious, but massive by the time the were filled, so don’t feel the need to hunt down the really big baking potatoes for this recipe. One other tip: par-cook the potatoes in the microwave (again, I love that ours has a potato setting that really does make perfectly fluffy baked potatoes) and finish them in the oven. This way I could cook the pork chops and potatoes on the same pan without worrying that one would be overdone before the other was cooked through (the fact that I used the same pan that I’d just cooked the bacon on and, therefore, cooked everything in the reserved bacon grease certainly did not hurt).


Tuesday was another sheet-pan meal (I really do love the simplicity of them): Maple-Garlic Chicken, Potatoes, and Brussels Sprouts. I realized only too late that I’d put potatoes two meals in a row, but this is what happens when you rush the menu so you can do your shopping on Christmas Eve because Christmas fell on your usual grocery-shopping day. It is what it is, or was, and the red potatoes were different enough from the previous nights that it didn’t feel at all redundant.


Wednesday I was just about to add the water to the rice cooker when, as I was talking to Todd about our days, I realized I’d rather go buy sushi than make the sushi bowls I’d planned. So we did, and I made the sushi bowls and crab rangoon on Thursday night, instead. Yes, we had sushi-related dinners two nights in a row. No, neither of us minded. I’d eat sushi practically every day if I could.


Friday morning we had to take Todd’s car into the shop and decided to be nice and bring doughnuts from Nanee’s Donut Hole into our respective offices since we had to pass right by on our way across town. I made the mistake of snacking on a piece of leftover apple fritter (yes, High-FODMAP indulgence all the way around, but so worth it) so that I wasn’t very hungry for the Thai Turkey Meatballs in Lemongrass Coconut Sauce that I’d made for supper, but Todd tells me they were very good. I guess I’ll confirm when I have them for lunch tomorrow!


And with Sunday being New Year’s Day, we had to have our traditional cabbage and black-eyed peas for wealth and health in the upcoming year. I’d usually pick up a small ham to go with, but decided to defrost the reserved pork leg from Todd’s birthday luau to go with the vegetables. It was still perfectly tender and delicious as it had been in March.


A Little Apres-Theatre Meal


We were uncommonly social this week between Todd’s company Christmas dinner, TOSAC’s production of It’s a Wonderful Life, the 1940s Radio Play version, and a birthday lunch for a friend. A very busy week.


That means, of course, that our menu was a little scrambled, just like the eggs after the play.

I knew from previous experience that trying to squeeze in dinner before the show could screw up in several ways, but Thomasville doesn’t generally have anything but drive-throughs open when the play ends, so something quick to prepare afterwards is key. Breakfast for dinner is always nice and simple, and these Creamy Eggs Florentine really hit the spot.

There’s not really a recipe, just a general procedure:

Whisk together 6 eggs, a generous splash of milk, salt, pepper, dry mustard, and smoked paprika (all to taste) and pour into a hot pan and cook without stirring until the eggs are nearly set. Add in a heaping handful of baby spinach that’s been torn or chopped and a couple ounces of cream cheese that’s been cut or pinched into cubes. Stir until cheese starts to melt and spinach starts to melt.

With a couple pieces of buttered toast and some sliced sausage it was a very tasty, very filling, and very fast supper.

What did the rest of our week look like?


Monday was a batch of Chicken and Sweet Potato Stew served over rice. Now, I’d made this before, and I recall enjoying it. But Monday evening I was just so blah and uninterested I only picked at mine. Fortunately, I found my appetite for the leftovers, but I think it needs less tomato and more something else, should I make this again.


Tuesday’s plans went to hell after a last-minute meeting ran late and I didn’t get home until an hour later than usual, just before Todd, and by the time we’d compared notes from our respective days it ended up being a Jimmy John’s night. So Wednesday night I made what I’d been planning to for the previous night, roasted Brats and Vegetables (from Grab a Plate).

Friday was the play and the aforementioned breakfast for dinner, and on Saturday was the birthday lunch at Coosh’s. That night for supper we just set out meats and cheeses to graze upon–it’s the second weekend we’ve done that and it’s rather convenient not having to worry about stopping whatever project we we’re in the midst of to make dinner. Grazing for the win, am I right?


Sunday I made a favorite stand-by recipe: Chicken and Dumplings. Normally this would have been a perfect meal for a winter weekend, but we had an unseasonably warm and muggy weekend, so this was a bit overkill. Tasty overkill, but not exactly in line with the weather.

And that’s another week done in the kitchen. Todd’s on deck for this week leading up to Christmas and I have no idea what we’re doing for the holiday. My family is out of town and we’re taking a very low-key approach this year since we’re both more or less exhausted by life in general at the moment. Anyone else skipping the holiday hustle and bustle this year?

Month of Menus, Part 4


At last we come to the end of our menu catch-up sessions, to the week that encompassed both Halloween and our 3rd wedding anniversary.

Between Duncan’s protectiveness vibe and general work exhaustion (one of these days I’ll have to get into that), not only did we skip hosting our annual Halloween party, we didn’t even get around to putting up any decorations. Sad state of affairs when we don’t even have the energy to decorate for our favorite holiday!


We couldn’t let the day go completely unmarked, however, so for supper that night I made our fall-favorite Pumpkin Sloppy Joes and served it with a simple salad. After supper we turned on the porch light and I sat out there with the candy while Todd tried to keep Duncan occupied and distracted from any little ones walking up our sidewalk. It mostly worked, but due to the Monday holiday and our late start (and I’m sure the lack of decorations hurt us, too), we hardly had any trick-or-treaters and have had to work through the enormous vat of candy on our own.

Aw. Shucks.


On Tuesday I made a recipe I’d pinned a while back, but since I wasn’t together enough to set up the slow cooker, I simply scaled back the liquid called for in the recipe and made the Sweet Chili Chicken in the oven. It took about as long as the brown rice to do its thing in the rice cooker, and this way there was no chance of the chicken getting mealy, the way it can sometimes do over a full-day’s crock. This was a simple enough recipe and I could see making up a large batch one weekend and dividing it up for later use.

Wednesday was our anniversary and while I’d considered staying in and cooking, I decided to save us both the trouble and we went to one of the local Mexican restaurants here in Thomasville (that I still need to write-up!) and had one of the most amazing margaritas of my life. Seriously. The food was good, too, and I took not a single picture of my Shrimp Veracruz or Todd’s Chimichanga. I also did not take pictures of the cupcakes I picked up from Smallcakes. Bad blogger, indeed.

Thursday I’d planned to cook, but the day ended so weirdly at work that I opted for a leftover night. I may or may not have had a leftover cupcake for supper, followed by Halloween candy. I think I also made myself a sandwich at some point. It is what it is…


Friday night I got back into the kitchen and attempted a pork chop version of a pork loin recipe, but without following the actual recipe (marinating and such). Yeah, it wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t nearly as good as it could have been if I’d remembered to marinate the chops the night before. I didn’t quite care, though, as I could have just as happily eaten the roasted potatoes and nothing else and been fine. Still, I left the Balsamic Roasted Pork Loin recipe on my To Be Tried board because I think it has potential.


On Saturday I took a break from my frantic last-minute knitting frenzy to make a recipe I spotted on a Facebook video but which hails from Food Network. The Sausage Gravy Breakfast Lasagna gave me the opportunity to try out the Tinkyada lasagna noodles (they worked perfectly, btw) and fill our usual breakfast-for-dinner slot. Which the lasagna was tasty enough, I think the sausage gravy part of the recipe could have stood just as well on its own without the rest of the ingredients. I suppose you could add biscuits. If you really needed to.


To round out the week I made Spaghetti Squash with Bacon, Spinach, and Goat Cheese and it was phenomenal! First, the tip to roast the squash in slices to avoid the squash steaming and becoming mushy was spot-on! (Though I’d probably still microwave the whole squash for a few minutes to make it easier to slice–that part’s a bit of a beast to do completely raw.) Second, anything with bacon and goat cheese will make me happy. I actually had the thought that so many cream cheese-containing recipes that are big on Pinterest could be elevated by swapping the cream cheese for goat cheese. In fact, the only complaint about this dish is that even with a larger than average spaghetti squash it barely made three portions. So, you know, double the squash if you’re wanting sufficient leftovers to share.

On that tasty note, we’re all caught up. I really do hope this glimpse of our supper plans over the last month encourage you to try something new or maybe revisit an old favorite sometime soon.

And, hey, if you have a cupcake for dinner one night? No judgement here!

A Month of Menus, Part 3


So, moving right along, we’re up to mid-month October, starting with the 17th.


We started with a simple oven meal of Sesame Salmon with green beans–the beans were roasted on the same sheet pan so they got the benefit of the sesame and soy dressing on the fish. Waste not, want not, right? A pot of rice in the rice cooker was all that was needed to round out the plate.


Remember my “we need more sandwich nights” thought from the previous menu? Here we go. Grilled cheese is a staple in our home but tonight’s version was an Italian grilled cheese, featuring both Cheddar and mozzarella cheeses and tomato sauce inside. So gooey, so good. Instead of the usual soup accompaniment, I opted for a Caesar salad with homemade dressing.

We had a leftovers night interlude towards the beginning of the week. It happens. Work or life interferes, you know the drill.


But when I did get back into the kitchen, it was to make these Sweet Potato Corn Cakes with Garlic Dipping Sauce These will definitely be made again. The corn nibblets on the outside edges get a little chewy from the frying, but I think they could be baked or griddled with no problem, instead. To go with them I went simple with some seasoned chicken thighs that baked in the oven while I tended to the more involved cakes.

Friday we met up with some friends at the Greek Food Festival for gyros, spanikopita, and way too much baklava (if there can be such a thing).


I generally ask Todd, before I make up the next menu, if there’s anything he’s been craving or would like for the following week. Very seldom does he actually take me up on a request, but this week he requested wings and I was happy to oblige. I baked a family pack of chicken wings drizzled in olive oil and dusted with salt and pepper and then tossed them into a sauce made of Parmesan cheese, garlic olive oil, and butter. So much better than most of the wing places we’ve tried. To go along with it I tossed a bag of rosemary fries onto a second baking sheet and they cooked at the same time.


Finally, the week finished out with a simple pasta dish: gluten free penne with sausage, peppers, and creamy (from coconut milk) tomato sauce.

And that’s another week of menu-spiration. Hope it sparks something tasty from your own kitchen sometime soon!