What to Make for Dinner When You’re Absolutely Uninspired

It doesn’t happen often (thankfully!) but every now and then I’ll sit down to make out the next week’s menu only to find that nothing sounds good. It’s not a matter of not being hungry (planning hungry means everything sounds good, right?), just of being disinterested.

Sure, I could have decided to go to the store without a list or a menu and pick up what looked okay and figure out the details later, or pick up enough for the first couple of nights and wait to decide on the rest, but I know where that leads: no plan means nothing defrosted adhead of time and a marked increase in the chances of us going out or getting something delivered. And that’s neither good for the wallet or the waistlne!

So I pulled what I could from Pinterest and magazines, listed basic components needed for a meal to be discovered later or two, and eventually filled 5 of the 7 days. Good enough–I at least had the week down and the weekend could be dealt with when we got there.This worked out surprisingly well, it turned out, as we had a couple of occasions to go out come up and my mystery meal nights were both successful experiments.

While I certainly hope the ideas flow easiernext time, I guess it’s good to prove even the uninspired weeks don’t have to be culinary black holes.

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Monday: BBQ Chicken-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

While we’re certainly no strangers to savory sweet potatoes, I saw recipes for stuffed sweet potatoes in at least 2 magazines this past month, so it must be a new trend. Todd had roasted a chicken over the weekend and we had plenty left over to make a second meal. This worked well for both my lack of inspiration as well as economics, and the recipe came together quickly for a Monday night meal.

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Tuesday: Sandwiches, Chips and Grapes

What are we, kids? Every time we get or make sandwiches for supper I always say we need to do it more often, so it was an easy choice for the second day’s supper. Sometimes I need to remember that not all meals must be gourmet or even inventive, classics are cool. And by planning for the sandwiches I was able to remember to have lettuce and toato on hand to elevate it from the quick snack a simple sandwich sometimes is.

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Wednesday: La Fogata Mexican Restaurant

My coworker kindly reminded us that Wednesday was National Margarita Day and even if I know it’s a made-up holiday, most likely by the tequila industry, we were happy to celebrate with dinner at a local Mexican place. Their Presidente margarita is my happy place, and the food is always reliable. I went with the House Platter (and half went home to be eaten later), but it was a good, spontaneous night out.

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Thursday: Mystery Meal 1: sausage + pasta + carrots

While it would have been a perfectly acceptable meal to grill the sausages, boil the carrots, and dress the pasta with olive oil and Parmesan cheese and call it a night, what I ended up doing was adding a can of artichoke hearts from the pantry to the sliced sausages, boil the carrots along with the pasta, and combine it all with some chicken base (a step up from bouillon, try it!) and the solid portion of a can of coconut milk. The smoked sausage and the soup base had plenty of seasoning between them, and the coconut milk solids made for a rich, creamy sauce that was still light and easily clung to the other ingredients.

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Friday: Eggroll In a Bowl + Teriyaki Chicken

I’ve had the deconstructed eggroll dish in my Pinterest file for a while and decided tonight was as good a night as any to try it out. I worried about how substantial it would be (rightly so) so I picked up a package of chicken thighs and baked them in a mixture of soy and teriyaki sauces with a bit of brown sugar and lemon juice tossed in. I should have paid a touch more attention when I was shopping, though, as I picked up hot sausage rather than medium or mild–oops! Todd enjoyed it just fine, I needed to doctor my portion with a healthy dose of yummy sauce to lessen the heat.

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Saturday: Liam’s meat and cheese board and crab dip (to-go)

Saturday night, downtown Thomasville was showing Frozen on an outdoor screen and since Todd and I are just big kids pretending at being grown-ups (and we hadn’t seen Frozen yet–I know!) we decided to partake of the festivities and actually go this time (we say ‘that would be fun’ a lot and end up tired or otherwise engaged and miss a lot of what we intend to do downtown; we’re working on it). The email from the visitor’s center mentioned Liam’s Lounge and Cheese Shop would have items for take-out available; we thought that meant they’d have a booth or table out at the movie site, but that was not the case. The three blocks uphill were totally worth it, though, as the cheese, crackers, charcuterie, crab dip, and giardinere made a wonderful picnic as we got settled into our spot in the open lot and let our inner children enjoy the movie fully. (We were getting some major side-eye from the grandmother next to us for laughing along with the rest of the kids. In her defense, she’s probably had to sit through the movie so many times that she’s more than over it by now, but still!)

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Sunday: Mystery Meal #2 ground beef + rice + peas

After emptying the pantry of all its contents at 7 something in the evening (a sortie of ants decided to check out that corner of the kitchen, much to our dismay–it’s an ongoing struggle in this house but, thankfully, they didn’t get into any of the food, just were being a nuisance), at least I knew exactly what pantry items I had to work with!

I cooked the brown rice with water and coconut milk (when in doubt, add coconut milk is my motto this week, I suppose) in the rice cooker. Meanwhile I browned the ground beef, added a pouch of frozen peas, and stirred in a healthy dollop of beef base, some cumin, coriander, celery salt, and pepper, and let it simmer for a while. The coconut milk and water make almost a porridge of the rice, sort of like a congee, but went well with the not quite a curry beef and pea mixture (which was thickened with a cornstarch slurry). It was a good comfort meal type of dish.

Not surprisingly, the things that saved us from a surfeit of take out this week were a well-stocked pantry and a willingness to experiment. This probably goes for any week, really, but it’s more so on the uninspired weeks.

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