Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Dinner Ennui

Yes, its true, the magic of cooking dinner has somehow faded after nearly 10 years of cooking dinner for my family... I'm looking for some suggestions to rekindle the passion, but first, some parameters:

-- I am lazy -- this means I prefer pantry stable items like canned beans, jarred sauces, etc. I only grocery shop once a week, so fresh meat is not used often. I keep frozen chicken breasts in the freezer and have been known to cook ground beef and freeze it.

-- I have young children. This makes cooking a bit difficult. The best recipes seem to be those that bake for awhile or crockpot dishes -- I seem to have a hard time spending the last half hour before dinner cooking, but if I can spend the half hour earlier in the evening and then let the dish bake for awhile, its easier.

-- I prefer lower fat dishes, so I avoid those with lots of fattening ingredients in them like canned soups and cheese and sour cream.

Oh, heck, maybe I just hate cooking dinner, but I'm hoping if any of you out there could offer a recipe, cookbook or link that I might find something to perk me up.


Anonymous said...

Hmmm--I have often thought of starting a recipe blog. But I just tend to read Jamie Oliver instead. Working ridiculously long hours, I am often starving when I get home and have little energy to cook. So, to avoid a fate of fast food drive thrus and over salted lean cuisine frozen dinners, I end up binge cooking once a month, cooking things like chicken pot pie with grilled chicken, lasagna, mac and cheese primavera, and if I am ambitious my own version of shepard's pie. Then, I freeze them in my handy-dandy corningware, so I can bake it or microwave it later. There ya go, it wasn't a specific recipe but how I handle my own fading enthusiasm when I have spent my cooking energy elsewhere. -Julie

Anne Zelenka said...

I'm hoping to come up with some new recipes like that delicious tuna-white bean salad recipe you gave me. I like that I can keep everything for it in the pantry and mix it up ahead of time. Plus, now that I'm in Hawaii, I'm looking for budget dinners that don't require fresh produce and meat--it's just so expensive here.

One of my favorite easy dinners to make is this Enchilada Casserole. Corn tortillas don't last forever in the fridge, but you can freeze them and then thaw them in the microwave.

Enchilada Casserole2 15-oz. cans chili beans (pinto beans in a seasoned sauce, found near plain canned beans)
1 package corn tortillas (10-12 tortillas)
shredded cheddar cheese

Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray. Rip up tortillas into bite-size pieces. Layer half of tortilla pieces on bottom of casserole. Pour over one can chili beans. Layer remaining tortilla pieces over chili beans. Add second can chili beans. Cover with tin foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle top with cheddar cheese and return to oven until cheese is melted.

Serve with sour cream and salsa.

david said...

Sorry Marjorie. My fav recipe is chicken & shrimp Alfredo using Asiago (HIGH FAT) instead of parm. I use whole wheat noodles if that helps.

david said...

My co-host on another site has published a low-carb cooking cook book. April's book's here and her picture is here.

Our co-hosted discussion forum is here. Its for people of faith who are writers. I think you blog(s) count if you wanna drop in.

You comment on pre-diabetic made me think of her book. The fact I've put on 5 pounds over the holidays helped too :0)

(P.S. I put a trilobite on the bottom of my blog just for you).

Larry said...

You said,
"the magic of cooking dinner has somehow faded after nearly 10 years of cooking dinner for my family."

Well my wife, after 47 years and 10 days, can get the most unimaginable meals with the least unimaginable effort. Life gets better as you go ahead.

Blessings to all.

Anne Zelenka said...

I was thinking more about this, because I feel so constricted in my own dinner cooking lately (produce that rots after one day in my house, outrageously-priced basic foodstuffs, day after day of unending heat, children that won't eat what I cook, ...) that I can really relate.

Anyway, I had a few other ideas/questions:

1. do you guys like eggs? Even though they have a lot of fat, they also have a pretty good nutritional profile and they're cheap. You can make an easy frittata or scramble in less than thirty minutes. I'm doing a sausage-spinach scramble this week.

2. I know you are mainly a Safeway shopper, but have you checked out Trader Joe's lately? I really love their simmer sauces with chicken or tofu or beef. The Moroccan Tagine is good and you could serve it over couscous. For a really easy dinner, buy Healthy Choice turkey polska kielbasa, slice it up and heat it in the Creole or Jambalaya simmer sauce then serve over rice. That's one of Rick's favorites.

3. What about making a pizza with Boboli?

4. Do you like lentils? I have a great recipe for lentil dal that doesn't take much work and cooks for a couple hours before dinner... I lost the cookbook but I think I remember the recipe so I'm going to try to reproduce it and post it on my food blog.

I'm trying some recipes from a couple cookbooks and will let you know if I find anything easy, healthy and good. Unfortunately, I'm not doing anything that requires a long period of cooking as that would just heat up my house more.

Marjorie said...

Thank you all for your suggestions. Julie, I have thought about bulk cooking. A few years ago, I glanced through some cookbooks regarding Month at a time cooking. Its an interesting idea and something I might try when the kids are a bit older and can help. I actually found a book that focussed on week at a time cooking, which was more my speed and from which I took the idea of buying ground beef, cooking it and freezing it in small portions.

Kwakersaur, asiago cheese sounds yummy! Some fat is important and if its serves with plenty of lower fat side dishes, that could work for me. I had been avoiding the whole low-carb fad, but I should probably look at it and take from it what is useful.

Anne -- I forgot about your enchilada casserole, I found the enchilada sauce too spicy for me, but made the dish without and its really good (I call it easy beany). I have your lentil recipe if you need it -- I had forgotten about that as well! Great ideas, thanks for reminding me.
Eggs, a good idea and you could always use egg substitute for part or all of the eggs to reduce fat. My hubby doesn't like eggs, so thats a bit of a barrier, but he's willing to eat what I cook.
Tofu, we had one dish, hubby made it, it was delicious. But on my second helping the concept of tofu was disgusting to me. I think maybe if it was sautee'd first I would have liked it more. Too mushy.

As to a hot kitchen, crockpots are supposed to be one way to avoid heating up the kitchen.

Marjorie said...

Whoops, sorry Larry, I meant to address your comment as well. Happy anniversary to a lucky, lucky man! I'm hoping Ellie will write a cookbook or at least blog some of these unimaginable meals for unimaginative minds like mine!