Low Stress Entertaining and Bagna Cauda {Sponsored}

Bagna Cauda

I used to have a lot of anxiety about entertaining.  Having people over meant at least a day, if not two, of intense work and preparation. I don’t know if I read too much Martha, but a dinner party was a BIG DEAL. First there was planning a menu and shopping. Then I had to clean the house, including finding a hidden spot for the many, many piles of books and papers sitting around (Two lawyers in the family!  Never trust a lawyer without piles of books and papers. We attract them like magnets.)  Cooking an elaborate meal (meals to make in advance!), then scrubbing the kitchen, running and emptying the dishwasher (always start a dinner party with an empty dishwasher! Finally, we greeted the guests with a sparkling house, a set table, a tray of hors d’oeuvres, and utter exhaustion.
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Meal Plan Monday – August 23-29

Meals 8.23

 

Thought I’d pop in to share what our dinner plans look like this week.

 

A few notes:

1) I love the Cozi app (which I’ve recommended before).   It puts my dinner plans right into my calendar.   I’ve been using it for grocery shopping, too, though I haven’t used their meal planning services.  This is a screenshot.

2) I don’t work on Fridays so I usually do my grocery shopping (writhing toddler in tow.)  My meal plan goes Friday-Thursday.

3) I was going to make dinner Saturday but ended up just grazing at book club.  I made  a butternut squash dip with tahini and date molasses out ofJerusalem, my latest cookbook obsession.  (The eggplant recipe is also from there.)

4) We were exhausted by the aforementioned writhing toddler and decided to take the whole family (even the dog) to the beach yesterday.  Dinner ended up being El Pollo Loco.  And I’m fine with that.  Though now I have three eggplants that need cooking.  (The lamb is in the freezer anyway).

5) I get home pretty late on weeknights (after 7) so dinner is usually simple simple simple.  The kids don’t always eat with us, either – Nuni usually eats at her after school program (or with my mom, who picks her up two days a week), and I usually feed Bootsy something as soon as I get home so we can get him to bed.  He’s a big fan of leftovers – last week’s favorite was barley risotto with feta (also from Jerusalem).

Five No-Fuss, No-Pasta Dinners For When You Don’t Really Want to Cook

dinners

 

So if you listen to as many food-related podcasts as I do, you may have noticed that lately there has been a lot of talk about cooking (I blame Michael Pollan)- about how it’s healthier, and better for society, and connects you with your humanity, etc.  Which, hello? is great, and I’ve been saying for years! Yay cooking! We love it around these parts. I also, however, like to play the role of fairy godmother of the reality check. You know and I know that we would LOVE to make from-scratch, healthful dinners EVERY SINGLE NIGHT, but we also both know that sometimes that just isn’t happening. Before you call the delivery man, or open (yet another) box of pasta, I present you for five ideas for easy, quick, no-fuss dinners. They don’t require NO cooking, but they do require MINIMAL fuss and no thought whatsoever. I usually plan to have ingredients for at least one of these in the house at any given time, to account for traffic jams, late meetings, and general exhaustion.

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Ten Ways to Use Roast Chicken

The fantasy: Your house is clean. Your children have finished their homework and are playing by themselves quietly and without incident. You have the time to chop, sauté and simmer, and fill your house with good smells as you make a leisurely, healthy dinner, which your delighted family eats with enthusiasm.

The reality: There was an accident on the freeway, so you’re home from work 40 minutes later than usual. Your daughter has emptied the contents of her backpack all over your living room, which is now strewn with glitter and various bits of paper. You’re supposed to send a signed form to daycare with your son, but you can’t find the paperwork anywhere. Your husband is working late. Bedtime is approaching. You need to get dinner on the table, quickly, but if you try to serve carrot sticks and chicken again your family will storm the barricades.

OK, maybe that’s just my reality. But I’m sure you have your own unique challenges.

The point is, we all want to live the fantasy. We want to cook entirely from scratch and feed our families healthy, homemade food every day of the week. But the reality doesn’t always stack up, and that’s where the harried cook turns to shortcuts, in the form of the supermarket rotisserie chicken. It’s healthier than frozen lasagna, quicker than starting from scratch, but not the most exciting meal. Here, then, are ten ideas for turning that rotisserie chicken into something fabulous. (Or, if you are living the fantasy, and have managed to follow the constant food writer suggestion of “Just roast a chicken!” then these are ideas for using up the leftovers.)
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