Tuesday, July 29, 2014

What's for Dinner?

I was just pondering the other day.....I don't think I tell y'all near enough about my prowess in the kitchen.  I mean I don't like to brag, but I turn out some pretty average dinners on a regular basis around here.  My repertoire is fairly predictable.  I'm a meat, potatoes, vegetables, and casserole kind of cook.  I don't cook things that I can't pronounce, foods that require any sort of French accent marks in their spelling, or dishes that call for ingredients that can't be found in your typical Mississippi grocery store......and there's probably nothing in my lineup that would be appropriate if, say, the Queen came home with us after church for Sunday lunch.  I'm just your basic kind of southern cook.

I'm sure you can all relate to the unending pressure of being the only thing standing between your family and starvation.  Every. Single. Day. They. Want. To. Eat. They get up in the morning wanting to know what we're having for supper.  They go to bed wanting to know what we're having the next night for supper.  And I think they've grown far too dependent on me for their next meal.  I mean if I am out of town or out for the evening and not around to cook, Davis will call or text me, "What are we supposed to eat?"   What does that mean......what are we supposed to eat?  I suppose it's like feeding the bears.....they just start coming around expecting it from you when they get hungry and eventually lose their ability to fend for themselves.      

Planning weekly menus and doing all the grocery shopping, well, that's hard work.  I was doing so good before school let out for summer break.  Before I would leave for the grocery store, I'd scour my recipe box, my cookbooks, and my Pinterest boards and decide which recipes I was going to prepare that week and I'd make out my list accordingly.  I'd head to the store with my list in hand and found that I spent less money that way and we ate out less because I'd planned ahead.  I was so together. 

But....then summer came around and the wheels fell right off of that bus.  Lately, I've been running in the store and grabbing a few packs of chicken and beef and then your basic cheeses, sour cream, pasta, cream of something soups, Ro-Tel tomatoes, rice, some frozen veggies, and a pack or two of onion soup mix for good measure.  No clue what I was going to do with all of that, but I figured any good southern cook could make something out of those staples and I'd just figure it out on a night to night basis.  That never works out well.  I'd come home from work and stare at the frozen chicken breasts that were as hard as the driveway, some pork chops that may or may not be defrosted by next Thursday if I had laid them out right then, and a couple of frozen roasts that could've served as bookends for a set of World Book Encyclopedias.  So......we'd end up taking the logical next step, "Ok, everybody in the car.....there's nothing to eat here."          
One night recently, I ran in the grocery store after work to grab something that I could make quickly for supper because we had to be somewhere in an hour.  I was tired of take out, so I was determined to find something that I could cook in a hurry.  Hmmm.  I had one hour to drive home, cook, eat, and get to where we were going.  I scanned the aisles and there it was.....something I never, ever stop to consider......the Hamburger Helper section.  Mind you, I have not cooked Hamburger Helper since I was a novice newlywed, but, on this particular day, it spoke to me, you know, like the stuff at Pier One does.  Maybe it was time to revisit this convenience food.    

It was almost like the Hamburger Helper was catching the light shining through the front windows of the small grocery store and that smiley faced white glove glistened and took on an almost angelic glow about it.  "Oh", I thought....."look at all of these flavors to choose from....4 shelves crammed full of mouth watering varieties".   I knew time was limited, so I couldn't go with any of the flavors that called for mixing the luscious cheese powder with milk and then pouring it over the finished product......too many steps.  No, I needed one that just required you to pour it all in the skillet and simmer, so I went with the Cheesy Italian Shells. Mmmmm.  The picture on the box did look scrumptious and I was feeling pretty cocky about my dinner idea all the way home as I'd also grabbed some garlic bread and salad.       

I browned my pound of ground beef and added the water, pasta, and all of the powdery goodness and waited.  Just like the box said, it was ready after simmering for just 20 minutes and I called everyone to the table.  We blessed the food and with our hour ticking down, we dug in.  I looked at my plate and that beautiful, rich, red, thick, tomato-ey sauce pictured on the glowing box in the store had taken on more the color and consistency of a Yoo-Hoo.  Mine didn't look near as tomato-ey as the box ......I mean, you know, being brown and all.  Definitely not a contender if the Queen scenario ever comes up.         
Soon after the Hamburger Helper incident and apparently in God's effort to keep my pride in check, we had taco night.  Taco night is always quick, easy, and doesn't require any defrosting.  It's a good "go to" meal.  Good, that is, unless the stock boy at your local grocery store is apparently the high school kickboxing champion.  I think nacho night may have been a more appropriate name for it, but they were still good.  I can almost see your mouths watering with all of these photos from my kitchen.   
If you started reading my blog in hopes of finding inspiring photos and ingenious recipes, you've probably come to the wrong place.  I do apologize for that.  I've resolved that with school starting back next week.......I'm going to get back into the swing with my menus and my shopping lists. 
If you have any tips or family favorites, do share! 
In the meantime, let me go feed the bears.  They're looking at me.         



  1. I made a crock pot lasagna the other night for the first time and we really enjoyed it. Here's the recipe that I got from my friend, Mary.

    Crock Pot Lasagna...

    1 pound Ground Beef
    Lasagna noodles (regular, uncooked)
    1 jar spaghetti sauce (I probably used 1 1/2 jars)
    1 1/2 cups cottage cheese (I used Ricotta - not so lumpy)
    1 1/2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
    2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

    Brown ground beef and drain. Spoon 1 C. spaghetti sauce in bottom of 4 quart crock pot. Mix remaining sauce with beef. Place 2 uncooked lasagna noodles on sauce in crock pot. Spread 1/3 meat mixture on top of noodles. Spread 3/4 C. cottage cheese over meat. Sprinkle 1/2 C. mozzarella cheese over cottage cheese. Add another layer of uncooked noodles, 1/3 meat mixture, the remaining cottage cheese and 1/2 C. mozzarella cheese. Place another layer of uncooked noodles, meat mixture, and mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over top. Cook on low for 4 hours. It turned nicely browned. If cooked much longer, it gets a bit well done.

    Let me know if you make it and what you think.

    1. I'm trying this, Barbara! I love crockpot recipes! Thank you :)

  2. Tonight we had one of my quickest, we've-got-somewhere-to-be-in-an-hour, dinners. Dump 2 16 oz. bags of frozen cheese tortellini, 2 cans of diced Italian tomatoes, and 1 8 oz. package of cream cheese into a large pot, simmer 15 minutes or so until the pasta is done. Then add a large bag of fresh baby spinach. Cook 5 more minutes. Sprinkle with whatever cheese you have on hand. I serve this with garlic bread and corn. If you want to add a couple of cans of chicken broth it also makes a great soup. This serves 8-10 people so half it if you only have a few.

    1. That sounds delicious! Thank you SO much!!

  3. This is great! I'm not a Southern cook, but I definitely try to cook the easiest, healthy things I can. After 20 years, I've lost all fascination with cooking. :) Also, why are the taco shells broken so often?!?

    1. I like to cook..... if someone would do the shopping and planning partr for me! As far as the taco shells go, my personal opinion is that they're thrown off the truck, slammed down onto a dolly, and then slung down the aisle. :)

  4. I know what you mean about feeding the bears! My family is the same way. I generally love cooking and meal planning but the last year or so has been a struggle. I am working more hours than I have before and I have three teenagers that have part-time jobs and evening activities so my visions of all of us sitting around the table together rarely transpire! Hate that about this season of life! I am always trying to find something that will hold well on the stove, in the oven, in the crock-pot, etc. to fit our evolving schedules. :)
    A few things we love to make right now are rice bowls, Olive Garden inspired soups and salads, salsa chicken in the crock pot, etc.
    For the rice bowls I slow cook a roast in the crock pot with a can of enchilada sauce all day. When we are ready to eat I cook up some yellow rice, heat up some seasoned black beans, shred the meat, grate up some cheese, chop lettuce and tomatoes (basic taco type toppings) and let everyone make their own "bowl."

    1. Kristen, I love the rice bowl idea! Definitely trying that! And we love the zuppa at Olive Garden. Do you have a copycat recipe for that? I love my crockpot on days that I have to work....nice to come home and smell dinner.

    2. I will give you my super semi-homemade version of the zuppa toscana! Don't have major gourmet expectations but we like it!

      1 lb. Italian sausage
      1 onion, finely chopped,
      minced garlic or garlic powder
      1 bag frozen chopped spinach
      small bag red potatoes, sliced and halved (does that make sense?)
      1 large can (family size) cream of mushroom soup
      2 cartons chicken broth or beef broth

      I just brown the Italian sausage, add the onion in while it's browning and add the garlic. Then I put the potatoes, spinach and broth in with the meat. Bring to a boil then simmer until the potatoes are soft. Add the cream of mushroom soup and stir/whisk until smooth. I generally taste and season to how we like it. A pinch of red pepper flakes to the sausage while it's cooking is good. Sometimes I might add some milk or half & half to the soup to make it creamier. this is one of those simple, feel as you go type of recipes but we really like it!

    3. Kristen, you are awesome! Thanks so much!