Are You There, Dinner? It’s Me, Jessica

“What do you want for dinner?”

“I dunno, what do you want for dinner?”

“I dunno.”

End scene.

And thus ends another scintillating conversation between me and Mister Jess about – you guessed it – what to eat for dinner. This is, by and large, the conversation we have every single night. This isn’t something I can blame on Bug, either. Even before we had a baby, we would sit in our living room and stare at each other, tummies rumbling as if to say, “yeah, what the eff IS for dinner?”

I have to admit that I’m not a cooker. Or a baker. Recipe books freak me out. Chicks Meri and Brooke send me super easy recipes and I smile (to my computer. Who doesn’t do that, okay?) and say “thanks!” Then the emails get filed away and die slow deaths, never to be seen again. When I do try to cook, it usually ends in disaster. One time I attempted to make a baked potato soup in the crock pot and I had to YouTube how to chop onions. Plot twist: the soup was awful. Surprise!

Mister Jess is more skilled than me, but his specialties are limited: he can cook a mean steak and a pretty delicious spaghetti. He’s probably the reason we haven’t starved to death. Well, him and the various restaurants of San Francisco. Thanks, guys.

I’m admitting all of this because I want you all to know how dire this situation is before I ask for your help. I will wait for you to finish laughing before I continue.

The fact of the matter is, I’m tired of take-out. I’m tired of making “nachos”, aka Tostitos chips and pre-packaged shredded cheese. I’m tired of frequenting the Whole Foods hot food bar, because it ain’t that hot. I want food. Real, delicious food. Real, delicious, healthy food that’s extremely easy to prepare and cook.

That’s not too tall an order, is it? Good!

I’m really asking for your help here, Scoot a Doot readers. Help me. Help Mister Jess. Save my little Bug from a future of hearing “what’s for dinner?” every night.

I love food. I just can't make it.

I love food. I just can’t make it.

So here it is: Do you have advice for me? Tips on how to get out of this years-long food rut? Easy, yummy recipes that I promise I’ll actually use? Meal planning advice? Tricks to get my vegetable-hating husband to eat some green stuff? Give it to me, I’ll take it all!

 

17 thoughts on “Are You There, Dinner? It’s Me, Jessica

  1. Hey there!
    I myself am as pitiful at cooking as you are, but I have slowly enhanced my skills this year however. Here is one suggestion to take to heart. Get a crock pot. They aren’t too expensive, and are great for many things! I have made chili, pulled pork and corned beef and cabbage. Pulled pork is a staple once every other month or so. It creates lots of left overs, and if served with sides of veggies or something else tasty, a pretty good meal! I usually buy a boneless pork shoulder with lots of bbq sauce and some rootbeer! Put the pork in with a light coating of bbq sauce, a bottle size of root beer (the convinence store size Thomas Kemper or something), and let it stew for about 8 hours on low! Shreds to pieces later!

    My other specialty is what I call Mexican Chicken!
    Boneless Chicken Breasts
    Taco seasoning
    Olive Oil
    Cheese
    Salsa

    Cover defrosted chicken breasts with olive oil and taco seasoning, bake in oven (around 380 for 30 minutes)

    Top with salsa then shredded cheese, return to oven for 5-10 minutes to melt cheese and enjoy the deliciousness that is about to ensue! I often cook some rice with this, and am sure it would also be good with a side of beans as well!

    Good luck!
    Brandon

        • It didn’t happen last night. Got home really late from work and realized I was missing the salsa. must buy it but I will try it this weekend for sure 🙂

    • Woo, thanks Brandon! Pulled pork is one of my favorites, so I will definitely try it. I have a crock pot but it has thus far hung out on top of my fridge (except for the misguided potato soup attempt). The chicken sounds delicious and easy too! I’ll try these and report back. 🙂

    • Guess what I made last night?? Yep! and it was a hit! My husband loved it too (he added a little hot sauce to his) Thanks so much for this recipe! super easy and tasty!

      • Awesome! Mexican Chicken is seriously one of my favorite things to cook of all time! Glad you enjoyed it! Adding hot sauce is perfectly fine! Change it to the eaters desire!

        • I loved it! Brought leftovers for lunch too! Mr. Vic puts hot sauce on everything. EVERYTHING. sometimes I think he misses out on a lot there.

          But thank you! Keep those recipes coming!!

  2. I also used to be a pretty challenged cook. Then a couple years ago, I decided I wanted to stop eating exclusively frozen dinners and the few meals I was confident enough to cook.

    Basically, I just started scouting out recipes online (allrecipes.com and foodandwine.com are probably my favorite sites) and trying to find things that sounded good. It the list of ingredients or instructions made my eyes glaze over, I moved on.

    When I found a recipe that I liked the sound of and that didn’t look too hard, I just followed the steps. Religiously. Like if it said “Saute onions until they turn translucent, about 5 minutes,” I would set a timer for 5 minutes.

    As I started to cook more often, I got more comfortable with what I could do. Kind of like running, actually.

    Also, I’m a big quinoa advocate. First, it’s really healthy. Second, it’s really easy to cook and very forgiving. Third, it’s very versatile. If your husband doesn’t like vegetable, mixing them in with quinoa might help.

    • I love that you equated cooking with running. For some reason, that really clicked for me! I think I’ll challenge myself to cook at least one meal on the weekend, when there’s a little more time.

      Great tip on the quinoa – I love it and I think he would be open to it! Thanks for the great advice, Ben!

  3. Before, I start, let me just put this out there. I’m not a recipe cook. I am a throw stuff in there and see what works cook. This has let to some amazing creations… and some disasters. if I’m honest. So, recipes, I have a few I can give you from my vast, ridiculous, collection of cookbooks. But what’s better? I can give you tips.

    1) Take the help – The world, and the modern grocery store, is geared toward busy people who don’t have the time (or the inclination… or the skill…) to chop their own onions. Or other vegetables. Get them pre chopped, fresh or frozen. No one is judging you on your onion cutting, Westie 🙂

    2) Keep it simple – If a recipe has 25 ingredients, don’t bother. The best things I’ve ever eaten have a small ingredient list.

    3) Watch Food Network – I’m not even kidding. I’m a better cook now because of things I learned watching cooking shows when J was a baby. Find shows that are geared toward your style (maybe 5 Ingredient Fix with Claire Robinson.)

    4) Get the right tools. – I don’t mean pots and pan. Look into a meal planning site. I have heard great things from people who use Fresh 20. It’s a subscription service, but not super costly. And they will send you a plan each week to prepare 5 dinners made out of 20 fresh ingredients. So you’ll buy one item and use it in a couple different dishes. http://www.thefresh20.com/mealplan/

    5) Pat yourself on the back – Do it. When K was born, I made Hamburger Helper. Every. Night. For a long time. You’re doing great, mama!

    • Thanks, love! These are great tips. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed that I just shut down and forget I have options other than making some elaborate meal. But I know with practice I’ll get better. I just have to actually try!

      • bec2point0 actually pointed out on #3 – I legitimately learned to cook by watching Food Network. I have it on in the background while making dinner still. (Maybe I feel more famed that way?)

        While every show might not be what you’re going to want to make – watching footage of chopping, sauteeing, etc. with instruction is, in my opinion, far less daunting that reading it from the page of a cookbook.

        I would add that a digital food thermometer would be a good investment. I’m always worried about chicken not being cooked thoroughly so a thermometer with a quick readout is something I like to have around.

  4. I have the same dinner every night, really. Super easy stuff. I buy bags of mixed frozen veggies, dump them in a frying pan, then poach some chicken and chop it up. Stick it in with the veggies and some soy sauce, and voila! Easy (if not slightly boring) dinner.

    I also love chicken/veggie fried rice. Dump some frozen peas & corn in a sauce pan, cook some rice to throw in there, scramble some eggs (maybe add some cooked chicken pieces), add soy sauce, and you’re done.

    Those are my two easiest dinners because usually I’m too busy/lazy to do anything else. Plus, breakfast is my favorite, anyway.

  5. melskitchencafe.com

    Awesome website. Delicious recipes, There are a few more complicated things, but she has 5 kids, so many of them are quick and easy.

    If you’re looking to step it up just a little, try this one:
    http://www.melskitchencafe.com/2009/03/skillet-chicken-with-broccoli-pasta-and-parmesan.html

    My husband doesn’t like sun-dried tomatoes and I don’t like broccoli, so we use carrots and red pepper. I put the carrots in with the pasta and a bit of extra liquid, and the red peppers in at the end where the broccoli would go. It’s still really easy to make (one pan!) but I swear, it’s better than most pastas I’ve had at restaurants.

You’ve heard my thoughts! Would love to hear yours here.