What’s for Dinner?

It’s Sunday and that means it’s time to plan this week’s dinner lineup. I do this for a few reasons:

  • I work full-time.
  • I have a family to feed.
  • This is the only day I have time to cook something more elaborate than a box of mac ‘n cheese.

Now, let’s get this show on the road. The Cubbies are playing this afternoon.

Despite having only two of my five boys living at home these days, meal planning somehow seems more complicated. When I had a full house, I cranked out casseroles like my life depended on it. But now, I’ve encountered a bit of a glitch. My youngest, a freshly minted teen who used to eat anything I put in front of his cherubic face, has suddenly become the world’s pickiest eater.

Take, for instance, his brown bag lunch preferences: chips (only the kind with the wavy dips in them), carrots (baby only, please), PB&J (but just half of one), and a protein bar (on this, he has no specific preference, bless his hungry little heart).

But I digress. While I am not about to accommodate his very own personalized dinner menu, I have culled a few dishes he, along with the rest of us, will eat. These five seem to fit the bill:

Sunday: Slow Cooker in Red Wine – When my sis first tipped me off to this dish, I was shocked to learn Betty Crocker had red wine in her kitchen. It raised my level of respect for the old girl several notches. For those of you worried about slipping alcohol into your family’s food, don’t worry. It burns off after simmering in the crock pot for several hours (at least I think it does).

Tip: Read the ingredients list very carefully on this one (you only need 3/4 cup of broth, not an entire carton). Also, if you can’t find “tiny pearl onions,” chopped onions (I prefer red) work just fine. I serve this dish with egg noodles, whole wheat egg noodles if I can find them.

Monday: BLTs – That’s right, your basic bacon lettuce and tomato, and here’s why it works for us – Monday nights are crazy. While my oldest son-in-residence has an evening college class, my youngest has his weekly Boy Scout meeting that starts nearly as soon as I make it home from work.

Tip: Bake the bacon in advance so it’s ready to slip between slices of a hearty Beefsteak tomato and a large leaf or two of iceberg lettuce. I serve this up with their favorite sides (in my house, that would be coleslaw and chips).

Tuesday: Tacos, of course! Here at Casa de Valentin, we do make-your-own tacos. All I have to do after walking through the door is brown the ground turkey (or beef), sprinkle on some taco seasoning, chop a couple of tomatoes, rinse and dry some lettuce, dump some shredded cheddar in a bowl, pop open a container of sour cream, crack open a jar of salsa, and we’re all set!

Tip: Place the tortillas on a cookie sheet, sprinkle a third to half with the cheese and warm in the oven just until melted before serving.

WednesdayBlack Bean, Sweet Potato, and Quinoa Chili with Smoked Chipotle – Props to Monique over at Ambitious Kitchen for this delectable recipe that is perfect for the fall. Who else could come up with a chili dish that’s not only colorful and nutritious, but so tasty that it’s become a family favorite?

Tip: The only thing I do in advance for this recipe is chop the veggies. On the night of, cook the quinoa. While the chili is simmering, mix the ingredients for the Chipotle Creme and chill for a bit until ready to serve. Also, while this recipe makes a lot, don’t worry. Leftovers make a great bring-to-work lunch for the next day.

Thursday: Sweet Baby James Spaghetti – no link for this one because the recipe creator is my youngest (long story, you can read the encapsulated version here). I’ll do my best to relay his intricate creation here: 1 bag parpadelle noodles, 1 jar marinara sauce and one bag turkey meatballs all of which we procure at Trader Joe’s.

Tip: Substitutions definitely allowed with this one. We serve this up with garlic toast and, if I have fresh ingredients on hand, a salad.

Friday: OK, full disclosure, by the end of what promises to be a very busy week, I’m going to punt and serve pizza – probably take-out, but I’d love a good recipe for homemade pizza dough that I can make in advance! If you’ve got one, please share.

Tip: If going with take-out, order on your way home so you can walk through the door with it in hand. What better way to start  the weekend looking like a maternal rock star…?

That’s it for now. Bon Appetit, my platespinning peeps!

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