I have been trying to hang on to these thoughts all day! Hardest thing I did! Yesterday someone posted how no one ever tells you that when you are an adult, you will have to think up supper every day for the rest of your life! Its’ that time of year again. The garden is really gone, the holidays are over and so is the fun stuff. Eating ‘out’ is barely an option these days. And it is easy to get weary of thinking up supper. One of my daughters, who is a really, good cook said, “Supper is overrated.” (Second time I have quoted her this week.) And it is. When I started to work 5 days a week my family quickly learned if it was hot and edible, it was good. I would get this frozen meal in a bag for a reprieve from cooking. I had my quickies, because there just wasn’t much time to cook. I have cooked for large groups of people and I have cooked for a family of seven. Now that it is just the two of us, I should be cheerful all the time, right? And full of good ideas and the time to make it, right? Well… there is still a kind of ebb and flow. The post did give me a laugh. The birds are probably rolling their eyes. Maybe no one told us we would have to come up with supper every night because they were doing it!
Back when I was cooking at a boarding school in Iowa, I ran a little short one night at supper. ‘A little short” means that most people probably got a little bit. It was the first night after coming back from Christmas vacation. One of the dorm parents said to me, “When you are far from home, the days are short and cold, plenty of warm food is a comfort.” Even when you aren’t far from home plenty of warm food is a comfort!
A couple weeks ago we seemed to be ‘eating through the kitchen.’ I kept coming up with another meal without going to the store. But we were really scrapping for lunches. I’m a fairly good supper planner and figure lunch will take care of itself, but my creativity at supper was limiting what there was for lunch and some days I get hungry and if I don’t eat, I just don’t have much energy. And the Man of the Place doesn’t have much time to invent lunch. So I made a plan to cook every night and then we have lefties for lunch. Not that original of a plan. One thing I find helpful is to look at my schedule for the week and plan food to fit it. There are always a few easy meals like hamburgers or spaghetti or fish, but there different ways of doing them. I try to spend some time in the week cooking a little extra and I think that is key. We remodeled our kitchen a few years ago and that seems to make a huge difference. So if you sorta like cooking but get sick of it, think about your space. When I was cooking at the boarding school, the head cook had a three week schedule of meals for 3 different seasons. You don’t repeat anything so very often and you can see what is coming before you get there. I am not as strict as that, but I do have a list of ‘Winter Meals’ and a list of ‘Summer Meals” and I don’t cross them….. except for maybe spaghetti and hamburgers! I love to cook easy with a flair. We eat a lot of fresh vegetables, as long as we can get them. We have a good, local market for fresh food, and some good stores, too.
So here are some ideas for easy stuff:
One of my friends is the rotisserie chicken. I didn’t think about this when I was teaching 5 days a week. And I like cooking a whole chicken myself, too. Once cooked there are few things to do with it. A standby is Chicken quesadillas.
Saute a chopped onion and some garlic. Mix in cumin to taste, and about a cup of salsa and about 2 cups shredded chicken. When heated through, spoon into tortillas that have one oiled side (the outside), grate some cheese over it and bake at 450 for 10-15 minutes. Or fry them in a pan. Sometimes I give up on the tortilla and just cook rice and add it to it. For the outside of the tortilla, I usually brush one with oil, then I rub the others with it so they all have just enough coating to make them crispy brown.
Lately we have resurrected an old favorite. Chicken and broccoli casserole. I do it pretty much without looking. You do use pre-cooked chicken and at least partially cooked broccoli then I make a cheese sauce and pour it over them , add carrots if I want, and , almost always onion, and top with stuffing Oh yes, I think Thanks giving mad s hungry for that one!
It is nice to have extra chicken in the fridge to add to stir-fry or top a salad with.
Another idea claimed from aforesaid daughter is what we call Fall Crack. Can’t get enough. Peel and chop a butternut squash into smallish cubes. You get out of it what you put into it. Saute it with some sausage and some sliced Brussels sprouts. Add cranberries, dried or fresh, if you choose. When the meat is brown and the squash is tender, it’s ready. Doesn’t take long. Another thing we do with butternut squash is slice it lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and put in a ball of sausage in the cavity and bake like a potato. It takes a good hour or more in the oven, and can bake unevenly in the microwave. I do it in the oven and start it early. You can always keep it warm till you are ready to eat. ‘Early ‘ means a couple hours ahead of time. Butternut squash soup is good and easy, too. I also put it into a recipe called ‘Turkey chili’.
A jar of hoisin sauce, found near the soy sauce is the ‘next best thing to sliced bread’. It is not easy to make yourself, unless a reader wants to tell me. I’ve looked and figure it was worth the buy. I saute’ whatever vegertables I have, cook some rice , add whatever leftover meat I have, and finish it off with hoisin sauce. Always make plenty. I always use onions garlic and ginger in a stir-fry. And fry in sesame oil for best flavor.
We like our potatoes steamed. Any kind of potatoes. I call meat and potato meals fast food. I call spaghetti Italian fast food. Sometimes we have salad and potatoes.
Last Christmas I got Jamie Oliver’s 5 ingredient cookbook. Sometimes I don’t know what stuff is, but generally I do. Lately I have tried the pesto burgers. A little jar of pesto added to your burger meat, with some spread on the buns, ooolala. . I think I add about half a jar per 3/4-1 # of burger meat. Theres also a recipe I call Jamie O’s sloppy joes. He has a more sophisticated word for it. You add canned tomatoes to the burger meat and maybe basil and oregano. And , as always, onions. I keep the onion growers in business. And I grow some too!
Once in a while I go to the library and grab a bunch of cookbooks that look anything like interesting, write down anything I might like to try. I give them a star or cross them off as I go along. My sister could find the best recipes in magazines. I could get the same magazine and miss them and then have it at her house. My daughter went to France to study and came home reminded that ‘Food is love.’ It really is. Sometimes I have to rise above my personal doldrums and not worry about variety and just have something ready. Because if you have worked away from home (or at some other job at home) , coming home to a meal ready to eat is just the best.