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.

Cooking the Books


The fact that I’m a bookkeeper makes that phrase rather loaded, but have no fear–nothing nefarious is afoot, merely the past week’s menu. One of the following meals was inspired by a book I was reading. If you can guess the meal and the book, you’ll win absolutely nothing but I will wonder if you’ve been peeking in my windows at night.

Let’s review the suspects:


Monday: Pumpkin Soup with Almonds and Sage + Cheesy Biscuits

A good Monday-night supper, not too taxing after getting back to work. The soup was good, but I would prefer a creamier version (this used only stock) so milk or a can of coconut milk would probably improve it for me.


Tuesday: Shrimp Salad with Coconut Green Goddess Dressing

I had a little trouble locating unsweetened coconut cream, so I had to go with the sweetened stuff intended for cocktails. This made for a slightly sweeter dressing, of course, and Todd wasn’t as thrilled with it as I was. I also blended the avocado into the dressing rather than leaving it in chunks since Todd isn’t a fan of avocado until it’s mixed into something (guacamole not included).


Wednesday: Forbidden Rice Ramen with Eggs

Yes. that soup is purple. Blame it on the forbidden rice ramen (purchased from iHerb). I made a pot of ginger chicken broth and then split some to leave as is (Todd had to be on clear liquids for a night for a medical thing–everything’s fine!) and then I added the ramen and egg to the remainder for me. The color reminded me, tangentially, of the blue soup in Bridget Jones Diary (which I’d just watched the week before), but otherwise was a bit of a novelty.


Thursday: Grazing tray with Garlic Herb Tomato Goat Cheese Dip

After the aforementioned medical thing, I wasn’t sure how hungry Todd would be or how much energy either of us would have, so I planned a snack night but took the opportunity to make this goat cheese dip I’ve had pinned for a while. It was so good, I didn’t regret putting it together after my 3 hour nap (waiting rooms take the stuffing right out of you!).


Friday: Corn Fritters with Maple Syrup and Sausages

A slightly different take on our frequent breakfast for dinner nights. The fritters are 1 cup each of gf Bisquick and self-rising corn meal, plus a can of corn (drained), and egg, and enough milk to get everything to the right consistency. (Oh, and a pinch of salt for good measure.) They cooked up pretty quick on the griddle and were very tasty.

Saturday: Chinese take-out (use your imagination)

I did precious little this past weekend that wasn’t laying on my chaise longue knitting or watching Star Trek. I just wasn’t feeling up to much else. So when dinner time came around I gave in and ordered Sesame Chicken and Egg Drop Soup. Todd was kind enough to go fetch it.

20170212_200127Sunday: Beef Enchilada Nachos

The twist on these nachos is cooking the ground beef with enchilada sauce and diced green chilies instead of the usual taco seasoning. The homemade nacho cheese gets a kick from a bit of beer and ancho chilies.

Any guesses?

What if I told you the book in questions was a detective novel set in the 20s. It might actually be considered pulp, I can’t really be sure, but I used to read this series when I was a kid and ran out of my other books to read.

Give up? The book was And Be a Villain by Rex Stout (part of the Nero Wolfe series) and the meal was Friday night’s Corn Fritters and Sausage.

I usually enjoy when authors include picayune details like what the characters ate at a given meal, for instance, because it creates a more complete world to step into. Granted, some focus a little too much of the food to the detriment to the story, but I think Stout strikes a good balance. Unfortunately, looking at his prose with an older eye, I now see the rampant sexism (maybe correctly reflecting the mores of the day, but still) and the overuse of slang. Reasons that Todd–who is a fan of Poirot and Homes–never really warmed up to Wolfe.

At any rate, the lunch was described and sounded like a good idea. Have you ever about a meal in a non-cookbook and decided to use that as your dinner inspiration?

Tripping Hard on the Nostalgia (and this week’s menu)


Twice in the last week or so I’ve told a story about somebody that I used to know, only to have them pop back into my life a few days later. Does that ever happen to you?!

I used to say that if I had a dream about someone, it was a signal to reach out to that person (because I seldom dream about people I know who I interact with all the time, it doesn’t happen that much). Just my brain’s way of helping me keep up with people. Of course, with Facebook that’s a lot easier, and we can lurk in peoples lives without actually having to talk to them. Or something like that.

If friend #3 (who I dreamed about this weekend) pops back up from wherever in this far-flung world he may be, then I’m definitely buying a lottery ticket or something!

Whether this is a cause or effect of the nostalgia trip I seem to be on is anyone’s guess (along with my sudden and unquenchable need to listen to My Chemical Romance’s Black Parade multiple times), but it definitely feels like old times cooking from the pages of Cooking Light this week.

(Do you see what I did there? Moving along…)

Here’s what the week looked like on our table.


Monday: Creamy Carrot & Herb Linguine + Salad

Lemon-Dill Quinoa Chicken Soup w/Ricotta Sweet Pea Toasts (link & link)

Tuesday: Lemon-Dill Quinoa Chicken Soup w/Ricotta Sweet Pea Toasts

Roasted Pork Chops with Beets and Kale (link)

Wednesday: Roasted Pork Chops with Beets and Kale (via Southern Living)

Upside-Down Shepherd's Pie (link)

Friday: Upside-Down Shepherd’s Pie

Sunday: Sweet Potato Home Fries with Eggs + tangerines (link)

Sunday: Sweet Potato Home Fries with Eggs + tangerines

We had a coupe of no-cook nights: Thursday we had a leftover night because they were stacking up in the fridge and it was getting a tad bit ridiculous. On Saturday we spent a good part of the day celebrating Duncan’s bark-day and I predicted we’d be a bit tired after going to the dog park, two pet stores, and a froyo stop, too (and I was right) so we headed to a local Chinese buffet in honor of the Lunar New Year (a far cry from last year’s homemade feast, but I was not up to a repeat of that this year).

Not much to say about any of the recipes themselves (the Cooking Light ones aren’t available on their website, yet, hence the lack of links), just a good solid week of menus. I’m happy to turn the reins over to Todd for the coming week–I’ve got to get caught up on my video editing (again)!


Hello, Old Friendly Meals


A familiar meal is like a warm blanket or a hug from a good friend.


As I was looking through a binder of recipes for a different project, I came across a printout of a Cooking Light recipe I first made way back in 1995 or ’96: Spanish Fork Chicken Stew. If I recall correctly, it was originally displayed served in a bread bowl, but I think I’ve only done that once over all the years I’ve made this stew. Even without a bread bow it’s an amazing, hearty soup that I somehow had never made for Todd. So on Monday night, while it was still a bit chilly in Southern Georgia, I made a big pot of this soup and it was as glorious as I remembered.


The next night’s supper was not quiet as successful. It was still supper, of course, and fairly tasty, but my potato-cheese ratio was a bit off and the Bacon-Wrapped Potato Volcanoes were not anywhere near molten, gooey goodness. That said, I stand by my opinion that Boursin and Chevre are superior substitutes for cream cheese in most savory recipes. The excess potato mixture made a nice bed for the smoked sausages that we baked alongside the potatoes, and baking is still an excellent way to prepare okra (far less “slimy” in the end).

Wednesday we had a bit of a mix-up regarding Duncan and his dog door, so the open night on the menu shifted from Saturday night to Wednesday. Instead of cooking, we opted to visit George and Louies, a place we had not been in a while (more’s the pity) and had some amazing seafood. The scallops were like butter, the fish fillet sweet and tender, and the oysters bursting with flavor. We really need to go there more often, though it’s probably just as well we don’t–the indulgence factor is high on this one.


It did mean we had fish two nights in a row, with Thursday night bringing the Wrapped Salmon with Spinach and Feta I’d originally planned for Wednesday. Probably the simplest aplpication of phyllo dough I’ve seen, using cooking spray instead of brushing with melted butter, but the resulting packets were nice and light. I can see us revisiting this recipe in the spring. Then again, it was feeling more spring than winter by Thursday, so it was fitting!


Friday night I returned to a Cooking Light recipe, this one from the current issue, with the Sausage Ragu over Polenta. (After finding a $5 subscription on Amazon around Black Friday I resubscribed and am already loving that decision!) I have nothing against polenta per se, but I much prefer slow-cooked southern grits, so that’s what I made instead. we get ours stone ground from a little country store and cook it low and slow for 45 minutes or so. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth noting again, that Todd hated grits when I first met him, but only because he’d only ever had the gritty instant or quick kinds. If you’ve found yourself in the same position, give the long version a try.


Thank goodness for freezer meals as I wasn’t feeling very well Saturday, and the fact that all I had to do was add rice and water to the rice cooker and then, 10 minutes later, dump the bag of Chicken Curry with Peppers and Cabbage into a saute pan… well, that made the difference between making dinner and not. Something I’ve noticed with the freezer meals, though, is that they frequently need more seasoning. I’m not sure if it’s scientifically correct, but it seems like between the last time I made this freezer meal and the current one, the flavor broke down even more. Just something to keep in mind, along with being sure to rotate your freezer meal stores regularly (this one had been in the deep freeze since March).


Finally, Sunday night I made Taco Bowls. It was inspired by the pin from Damn Delicious but I deviated quite a bit. First of all, I added some shredded cabbage for crunch. Second, I cooked the corn (the pretty picture shows blistered corn cut straight from the cob, the recipe calls for drained canned corn–I compromised with frozen corn sauteed with garlic oil, salt, and pepper). Third, I added cheese and a bit of avocado queso. I mean, really, what is a taco (bowl) without cheese of some sort?!

So that was our week, what’s on the menu in your house this week?

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.