Day 8: How to plan dinner when you’re not a planner

I didn’t plan to cook dinner tonight, nor did I plan not to cook dinner. This is hardly unusual. Shane and I just aren’t planners. I’m not saying this is a good thing or a bad thing, it’s just how we are.

How do we manage to get dinner on the table every night without a plan? It’s actually not a matter of planning*. It’s a matter of remembering (or keeping a list) and having an arsenal. That is to say, a list of foods you mostly always buy and an arsenal of quick recipes.

Here’s our list – 15 of the most basic of basics things you should try to keep on hand if you want to be able to throw a quick dinner together on a moment’s notice. I’m going to go ahead and assume you already have olive oil, butter, salt, pepper and flour.

  1. Whole Peeled or Chopped Tomatoes in a Can
  2. Pasta
  3. Eggs
  4. Trader Joe’s Handmade Flour Tortillas
  5. Cheddar or Mozzarella Cheese (pre-grated is fine)
  6. Parmesan or Pecorino Cheese
  7. Salad Greens and/or Broccoli (but really the more veggies you have on the ready the better)
  8. Eggs
  9. Chicken Tenders (yeah, the raw kind) and/or Extra Firm Tofu
  10. Garlic
  11. Onions
  12. Lemons
  13. Seasoned Rice Vinegar
  14. Rice
  15. Panko Breadcrumbs

Tonight’s dinner was a perfect execution of the list and the arsenal method. Homemade Chicken Nuggets, Baked Tofu, Rice and the remainder of the salad from Saturday—which I had saved, un-dressed so we could have it again.

That’s all for tonight!

*Full disclosure: I have experimented with meal planning pretty extensively in the past. At this point in my life, it seems like too much work.

 

30 days of posting challenge: Day 7

We had a lovely, delicious, early dinner tonight with framily (OMG did I just coin that?!) which I forgot to document.

Instead, I give you this unsolicited message from Rose who thinks we need more followers. Perhaps I should put her in charge of my social media strategy.

It’s Sunday night. Go to bed. xoxo

P.S. Dang! I did not coin framily.

30 days of posting challenge: Day 6

Today was one of those days. Shane was working. I tried to do some unpacking since we moved back to our house in June and are still in boxes. Between 10am and 1pm, I managed to unpack approximately one box, thanks to my incredibly helpful offspring.

I tried to take the kids for a “fun” trip to Party City.

Mistake.

Took them to Trader Joe’s partly as punishment and partly because I wanted to buy wine.

Mistake.

After rolling all over the floor of Trader Joe’s, Sid screamed all the way home because he wanted to take his sweater off, but couldn’t because he was in his car seat. When we got home, he stripped naked in the parking lot and demanded justice at the top of his lungs.

By then, Shane was home so I locked myself in the office to contemplate what kind of salad might just be good enough to turn my day around.

I settled on this salad from Epicurious, but substituted walnuts for pecans, and radicchio and romaine for red endive.

It’s a lot to ask of a salad to be so good it turns your day from poop to gold, but this salad did it’s best and I give it an A for effort. And I’ll definitely make it again.

Shane made pork tenderloin.

 

30 days of posting challenge: Day 5

Oh hey look, I’ve made it 1/6 of the way through my challenge! Today I’m going to tell you a little about my day job, but first I’m going to tell you about dinner.

I love Fridays because I work a short day from home and then if all goes well I have time to do stuff, like cook dinner or take the cats to the vet. My goal is to make something special for dinner on Friday. And by special I mean something besides whatever-it-is-I-can-throw-together-in-30-minutes-because-that’s-all-the-time-I-have, which is what happens on all of the other weeknights.

Even with the extra time on Fridays, somehow I often end up not having time or forgetting to go grocery shopping. Tonight was one of those nights. Fortunately we had approximately 14 shrimp in the freezer, a massive head of cauliflower, and lemons. And since 99% of the time we also have olive oil & pasta, I was golden.

Regular readers probably think I have an odd proclivity for cauliflower. What can I say? It’s a hearty vegetable that soaks up flavor well and fills the void when everyone else is eating meat or fish. So yeah, we had cauliflower again. This time, just roasted with lots of olive oil & salt, lemon juice, lemon zest and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes. Yum.

For the kids and Shane, I made Shrimp Scampi. And we had a side of linguini. Shrimp scampi is super easy, this is my favorite recipe (you can skip the shallot and/or the parsley if you don’t have them) but this one is fine too, if you’re just serving it alone or with pasta and don’t need a lot of sauce.

So, do you still want to hear about my day job, or do you  just want to look at another picture of that cauliflower?

Enough about cauliflower! What I do for a living is design real estate marketing campaigns. So, my team and I, we brand buildings (as we like to say) all day, every day.

It’s a super interesting job that stays interesting because for each building we have to find a way to carve out a real personality, and try to get inside the heads of the people who will live of work there, and create a campaign that caters to them. Not who they really are necessarily, but who they aspire to be.

I love home. I love homes, all kinds of homes. Whenever I go somewhere, I fantasize about living there, and sometimes even seriously consider it—even though moving is my personal version of hell. In fact, I love looking at real estate so much that when Rose was little, she thought my job was “looking at houses on the computer.” For better or for worse. So this line of work is pretty much perfect.

Maybe the connection between the blog and my career has something about home? Or not. That’s ok, I still have 25 more days to figure it out.

Until tomorrow!

30 days of posting challenge: Day 4

Tonight as promised I’m picking up where I left off two nights ago. So go ahead and read that post here before you continue—that is, if you like things all chronological-like.

So, what exactly does this blog about dinner, food, family and life have anything to do with my career as a graphic designer? (Drumroll…. or not) Sorry, I don’t have an answer to that question right now. But maybe I will at the end of 30 days!

As part of the Build Yourself Accelerator workshop, we do a lot of really helpful exploring and asking questions of ourselves. One of the things we discussed was how to leverage what you’re already doing to build career success and visibility.

The blog immediately came to mind as something I’m already doing, now I just need to find a way to connect it to my career. And that connection is what all this posting will hopefully, ultimately reveal.

Want to know what I do for a day job? Tune in tomorrow… or maybe the next day.

Oh right, this blog is about dinner! Tonight Shane made pizza (yesssss!) and a delicious little plate of mozzarella with a teeny tiny pile of fennel on top, that he tried to pass off as a salad (it’s the thought that counts, right?)

 

 

30 days of posting challenge: Day 3

Ok, so. I’m not going to tell you more about why I’m doing this project. Not tonight. Sorry.

Instead, I offer you this glimpse into my husband’s food preference versus mine. Take a wild guess which plate belongs to which of us. Acutally, don’t even bother.

More on the posting challenge tomorrow. Promise!

30 days of posting challenge: Day 2

So what’s up with the revived daily posting again? If you’re a reader you know I’ve been struggling to keep the blog afloat ever since I had a second kid and took a full-time job in an actual office that doesn’t double as my dining room.

I totally love my job, and I totally love my two kids. So how do I share that love with my old friend, the blog?

Recently I started doing the Build Yourself Accelerator with Mia Scharphie. I first met Mia (pronounced my-ah) when she came to our office to give a presentation on Building Yourself by Building Others. I was utterly moved by her presentation and the idea of building your professional self by building those around you. 

I was surprised and delighted to learn that I could get ahead in my profession without being an asshole and stepping all over my colleagues.  I wished I’d known sooner. I’d be so much farther along in my career by now. Kidding…. Sort of.

Being horrible to other people was never part of my career plan but I honestly thought there was some level of insincerity or kissing up required, and I was going to put that off for as long as possible. 

Mia’s talk was totally enlightening. I love to help others grow, build people up and make them feel good. Who knew it could help my career?

What the heck does this have to do with this food blog? Check in tomorrow to find out more.

P.S. Tonight’s dinner before (at top) and after (below) featuring cheese tortellini, easy sweet italian sausage & tomato sauce and, as always, salad.

Dinner every night

I’m challenging myself to revive the blog by posting every night for 30 days (more on that later). Today is a great day to start. Even without fantastic photos, it seems 100% worth documenting the salad Sid made for me with his very own 3 year old hands… and a pair of scissors.

I’m not entirely sold on the ketchup and fresh mint salad dressing, but I love that my little laddie made his own. And I adore that he’s got his vegetarian mom’s back on BLT night, since dad wasn’t home to do his magic.

BLTs and CLTs

Tonight we’re talking about CLTs (not to be confused with TLTs). This is what folks around here are saying:

“Shane! What the hell did you do to this sandwich? It’s so good!”

“It’s a CLT, Nina. Or as I like to call it, a clit.”

“What the hell kind of cheese is this? This isn’t brie, it’s much better than brie.”

“It’s triple brie.”

“Rose, eat your sandwich.”

“Is this egg? I don’t want egg.”

“It’s an egg and cheese omelet inside of a BLT sandwich.”

“You should really try it, mine is the best sandwich I’ve ever eaten.”

“Ok I have to say this is actually really good.”

You get the picture. So, what the hell did Shane do? By the looks of it he toasted regular old hamburger buns in butter and then piled them high with perfectly seasoned ingredients.

The “triple brie,” the lightly mayoed buttered bun, the perfectly salted chunks of tomato, the sprinkling of crushed wasabi peas on the side salad. It all came together like, well, the most perfect thing ever. And then geez, putting a cheese omelet inside of a BLT. Stop it Shane, just stop!

Something special: cauliflower edition

Looking through old posts for a recipe tonight, I realized that I can get pretty enthused about cauliflower. And yes, I’m enthused about cauliflower again tonight.

But let’s back up.

I wanted to make something special tonight because for the first time since May, we weren’t frantically trying to pack up and get everyone out the door in time to beat traffic and make it to the Cape in time for dinner.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I wrestled the kids into the car and went to Whole Foods, anticipating the mob scene that is Whole Foods on a Friday. But it wasn’t a mob scene, it was empty. Apparently Bostonians don’t go shopping in the rain.

I was going to make Cappelini with Shrimp. I started in produce and then realized that I didn’t need to start in produce because I would actually be able to navigate back to produce because the store was so empty.

I grabbed a cauliflower and an eggplant anyhow. Who cares! I thought, I can come back to the produce section later. I can come back twice if I want!

I went over to the fish department. Shrimp was hella expensive. I bought the Amazon Prime salmon for ten bucks a pound instead.

Usually I make myself some baked tofu when I make salmon for the family. I picked up a package of tofu and put it back. Then I spent 20 minutes freezing—that store is cold when it’s empty—while I haggled with Rose over what would constitute an acceptable under $10 snack.

I decided to make cauliflower gratin and picked up some cheese on the way back to the produce department.

Then we made our way to bakery. If you’ve been to our local Whole Foods you know how crazy that is. You don’t go from Tofu, to Produce and then over to Bakery. That’s nuts. It’s also impossible.

But the store was empty.

I got in the first check out lane available. As I put my stuff on the conveyer belt I realized that we were in the express lane. Fuck it. The store was empty. Some dude shoved by us with a bunch of bananas even though the other lanes were all open. He must have had principles.

But what about that cauliflower?

Ok. I got home and realized that cauliflower gratin would be totally gross with miso glazed salmon. Plus I was not in the mood to make a bechamel.

Enter Anthony Bourdain. I read his book and got tired of hearing about how much he can drink and smoke and wrote him off. But the thing is, that man knows exactly how much salt to use, and how much sauce is the right amount of sauce.

His recipe for roasted cauliflower with miso tahini sauce is perfect with no substitutions*. I didn’t have to double the oil, salt or sauce. Sorry I wrote you off Anthony. Also there’s no such thing as too much miso.

*More or less, I added cumin and red pepper flakes and didn’t have sesame seeds but would have used them if i did.

• Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Miso Sauce •

from Anthony Bourdain
Serves 4-6

1 (3-ish pound) head cauliflower, cut or broken into bite-sized florets
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coriander
1 tsp. oregano
1/4 teaspoon cumin
a generous pinch or three of red pepper flakes (depending on how spicy you like it)
Ground black pepper
2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon white miso
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon warm water
3 tablespoons sesame seeds (if you have them)

Preheat oven to 450°. In a large bowl, combine cauliflower, oil, salt, spices, and pepper; toss to evenly coat cauliflower. On a rimmed baking sheet, arrange in an even layer, without crowding too much. Roast cauliflower for 20 minutes, turning sheet and lightly tossing halfway through.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together tahini, miso, vinegar, and water until smooth. 

Remove cauliflower from oven. In a large bowl, toss cauliflower with sauce and sesame seeds (if using). Serve warm.