I don’t know what to fix. What do you want?
I’ve been super busy — for some reason, February is that way. I’ve had multiple deadlines for this and that, I’ve had the flu and bronchitis and I’ve lost all inspiration about what to fix for dinner.
Actually, my husband, bless him, does most of the cooking, but I do the planning.
Is it a beef week, or chicken? When was the last time we had pork chops? Is it a good week for a roast in the slow cooker? How many nights do we have to go out? How late will I have to work? Should we just have breakfast for dinner?
And all this, of course, while trying to eat sensibly — less fat, few carbs, more veggies. No macaroni and cheese with hot dogs. No loaded baked potato, no spaghetti, no fried rice.
He planned cube steak for Sunday, and I always want mashed potatoes when there’s gravy. So, broke the diet this time.
But let’s try a little revival with a good side dish.
Broccoli was on sale, as were grape tomatoes. But broccoli gets cold so fast when you cook it.
Broccoli salad! But not the gooey sweet one with raisins and all that sugar. Yes, so let’s get some carrots and green onions and sunflower seeds and maybe some olives.
I’d make it again, because it was a nice crunch to go along with the soft main course. And there are endless variations, needless to say. I made enough for two of us to have over two nights, and I still have broccoli left over, so we may try a variation later in the week. This did take a little prep time, but it wasn’t laborious.
2 cups broccoli florets
Stems from the broccoli
1 large carrot
8-10 grape tomatoes, quartered
1 green onion, chopped
1/4 cup sesame seeds
8-10 olives, sliced (optional)
For the dressing
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
White part of green onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. honey
1 tsp. (or more) balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
Use a large bowl so you can mix the ingredients well. Peel stems of broccoli and cut into coins, then separate the florets and cut the larger ones into bite-size pieces. Place in the bowl.
Wash tomatoes and cut into quarters or thirds, depending on size. Add to bowl.
Peel carrots and slice on the diagonal, then slice each diagonal into 3-4 strips, enough to get your fork into, but also bite-size. Chop the entire green onion, reserving the white bottom for the dressing. Add green parts to the bowl.
To make the dressing, in a small bowl, add mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, ground coriander, green onion, honey and balsamic vinegar, along with salt and pepper and whisk well to get a smooth consistency. If it seems too thick, add a splash of olive oil.
Mix dressing in with the vegetables and refrigerate one hour, if you have time. When serving, add sunflower seeds and olives.
Another easy meal is a pot of minestrone soup. Or you can call it vegetable soup. Prep takes a few minutes, but it will cook quickly and be plenty filling. The key to minestrone is it’s made with whatever vegetables you have on hand. Use canned beans for protein and to make the soup hearty. You can also throw some chicken or other meat in if you need more protein.
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrot
1 cup chopped celery
1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
1 zucchini, chopped
1 15 1/2 oz. can whole or diced tomatoes
1 15 oz. can cannellini or great northern beans, drained
1 medium size potato, cut in chunks
4-6 cups chicken or vegetable stock (low sodium)
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Start in a Dutch oven by sauteeing the onion, carrot and celery in the olive oil until softened slightly. Add the garlic, which has been crushed or minced. Stir until fragrant. Add the canned tomatoes, broth, potato, bay leaf, oregano and thyme. If you like juicier soup, use the 6 cups of broth, or just eyeball it to the level that looks right. Simmer about 10 minutes, so potatoes can start to cook. Add beans, simmer 5 minutes more. Add zucchini and simmer 10 minutes. Check that potatoes are tender, then taste and season with salt and pepper.
Serve with copious amounts of grated parmesan cheese on top.
Quesadillas are an easy, quick fix, and they always taste so good. Sometimes, I just add cheese and chopped tomatoes to the tortilla and that’s it. We’ve used leftover roast, leftover pork shoulder, chorizo (one of my favorites), and whatever else we can get in there.
There are two ways to cook these. You can decide how skilled you’re feeling.
We always use a cast iron skillet, because it browns so well. You can either layer one tortilla in the pan, cover it with fillings and top with a second tortilla, or use one tortilla and fold it in half.
The thrill of using two tortillas is getting it flipped without losing all the filling. Using cheese as glue can help.
We’ve discovered that one of these pan-sized quesdillas is enough for both of us.
When we want something slightly different — he likes raw onions, I do not — we use one quesadilla, cover half of it with filling, let that cook in the pan for a while, fold it over, flip it and finish the second side. Less intimidating to turn and the cheese glue works great. That way he can do his own and add whatever he wants.
We buy a rotisserie chicken on Sunday, when they’re on sale because it is so much cheaper than buying a raw chicken and cooking it ourselves. We can use half for quesadillas, and the other half for something else.
You can also do quesdillas in the toaster oven.
Easy Cheesy Chicken Quesdilla
1 half rotisserie chicken
1 cup shredded monterrey jack, pepper jack or cheddar cheese
1 green onion, chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
A few pickled jalapeños (optional)
1 cup shredded lettuce
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup or more favorite salsa
1-2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2-4 tortillas, 8-10 inches
1/2 chopped cilantro
Shred the chicken. A half is a bit much for 2 people, but will be plenty for four.
Have all ingredients prepared and close to the stove. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a cast iron skillet until shimmering over medium to medium high heat. Before adding tortilla to pan, add a layer of cheese, then some chicken. Place in the pan, sprinkle with green onion and chopped tomato. Cook, checking edges, until the tortilla is slightly browned. Sprinkle more cheese on top and fold one half over the other. Carefully flip and cook on the other side until browned. Remove from pan, slice into wedges and sprinkle with lettuce, jalapeños (if desired), cilantro. Dollop on sour cream and serve with salsa on the side. Use more oil for the second quesadilla, as needed.