Two dinners.

This may be a little secret I should not share (or maybe every homecook does this?): as much as I love to cook and try new recipes, it dawned on me the other day that I have about 6 family meals that I cook over and over. (And over and OVER.) I also realized, happily, that they all meet our rules, even though I’ve been cooking them for many years, before we even had “rules”:

  • homemade tomato sauce, whole grain pasta, some kind of vegetable (usually a bag of Meijer Organics frozen broccoli or green beans; if I’m feeling really motivated, or need to clean out the crisper, I’ll make a salad or sautee up some seasonal fresh vegetable)
  • pan-sauteed chicken breasts, brown rice or roasted potatoes, some kind of veg (above)
  • broiled tilapia, brown rice or roasted potatoes, some kind of veg
  • broiled salmon, brown rice or roasted potatoes, some kind of veg
  • turkey meatloaf, brown rice or roasted potatoes, some kind of veg
  • some form of sauteed shrimp, whole grain pasta or brown rice, some kind of veg

Ta da! Aren’t those interesting and inspiring?! (Yeah, no big deal, right?)  Obviously, I’m a pretty conventional meal planner: protein, starch, veg. But, the reason I go to these over and over? They are easy, healthy, AND every single one of the boys will eat everything on the plate. The most labor intensive is the tomato sauce (recipe here) — but I make a big batch every month or so and then always have some in the freezer — which actually then makes it the easiest of all the go-to options.  For the others, I keep at least one meal’s worth of each protein in the freezer at all times. I always have rice, pasta, and potatoes in the pantry. I always have a couple of bags of the boys’ favorite frozen vegetables in the freezer.

You can probably figure out on your own how to do any of the above. But I’ll describe a couple of them that I cooked this past week and actually remembered to photograph. (I’ll get to the others in a future post).

Turkey Meatloaf with Mama Fries! (that’s what my kids call the roasted potatoes — makes them sounds much more exciting than they really are, doesn’t it? You have to say it with the exclamation point!)

This recipe always makes me think of Oprah. Which then makes me think about how old I am getting — the fact that I actually recall watching Oprah as a stay-at-home-mom is going to start dating me pretty soon here (as in, “she must be pretty old if she remembers that…?” Like when my mom talks about watching Phil Donahue as a young mother. Yeesh.).

The Oprah reminiscing then leads me to wonder: can someone tell me just exactly WHAT cultural lynchpin new moms have to make small talk and bond over these days? I would be a rich gal and could leave this highly-lucrative blog-writing career behind, if I had a dollar for every time (back in the day) that I would start a playground/Starbucks/pool club conversation with another mom-friend: “Did you see that Oprah the other day where…. blah blah Justin Timberlake blah blah?” OR butted into someone else’s conversation (I was by myself and needed grown-up talk — you cannot be shy when you are a lonely mom home with only a small child or two (or three)):  “Oh! Are you talking about that Oprah from last week?… blah blah George Clooney blah blah?”

And, if that lady who once snidely said, “We only watch PBS at our house” is reading this — well, all I can say is that I hope your life has gotten a lot less serious in the ensuing years. Go watch Sex in the City and catch up with the times, girlfriend!

I had a point. Oh, yeah, I owe this recipe to an Oprah show I watched while home with (I think) my second son. (Or maybe the first or the third — those early baby days are completely impossible for me to place in any recognizable part of the space-time continuum). Dr. Nicholas Perricone was on and he was promoting his new book (and associated expensive skin care products and line of supplements, which I’m sure are wonderful) and all these “older” (to me, at the time) women were on the show raving about how eating recipes from the book (plus all the other stuff) had taken YEARS off their faces and bodies. And, you know what? They looked really darn good! So, while I never got around to buying all of the other stuff, I did buy the book and… it changed my life! At least, the eating part of my life. I thought I ate pretty well before that, but based on that book I completely gave up sugar and began to eat only whole grains and LOTS more colorful fruits and vegetables (high in antioxidants) and sources of Omega-3 (like eggs and salmon).  This sounds like old news now — but it was kind of cutting edge back then (I am totally dating myself, now, right?) Anyway, I felt so much freaking better eating that way. And the recipes are easy and good. He credits a lot of them as “adapted from”  The Whole Foods Bible, by the way — which you’d think I would own by now, but I don’t (birthday gift idea? hint hint)

So — ah, the truth will out, won’t it? — while it may seem that I am on this “real foods” kick because of my love for the earth and my desire to keep my children as healthy as possible; wellllll…. now you know: it is actually because I am completely and ridiculously vain and obsessed with not looking old.

Of course, the other stuff is important, too, I guess….

protein, starch, veg #1
protein, starch, veg #1

Oh, yeah. The recipe?

mush by hand in a giant bowl:

  • 1.5 pounds organic ground turkey
  • 1/4 c each finely chopped celery and onion
  • 1 free range egg
  • 3/4 c oatmeal pulsed finely in a blender
  • 1/4 c milk
  • 1/4 c finely minced flat leaf parsley
  • generously salted & peppered

Press into a loaf pan and bake at 400 degrees or so for one hour or so. Before you put meatloaf in, cube 4-5 Yukon gold potatoes, toss in a baking dish with olive oil, salt & pepper and roast in the same oven — they should both get done about the same time. As they come out, cook up a veggie the kids like.

pre-baked meatloaf
pre-baked meatloaf


pre-roasted potatoes
pre-roasted potatoes








Sauteed Shrimp with Pasta

Sadly, I don’t have a long, rambly story to lead us into this recipe. (I can sense that you are really upset. I’m sorry.) I like shrimp, the kids like shrimp. I have a few varieties of ingredients with which to sautee them — depends if we’re having them with rice (more Asian flavors) or pasta (more Mediterranean, like this):

protein, starch, veg #2
protein, starch, veg #2
  • peel 1-2 lbs shrimp (or buy already peeled)
  • sautee in a hearty pour of olive oil: a couple of cloves of chopped garlic, a chopped tomato (squeeze out the seeds first) or a couple of handfuls of chopped grape tomatoes, and a couple of anchovies
  • add a bit of white wine or water so it’s not too dry
  • add the shrimp and cook until they are done; throw in some butter or more olive oil at the end
  • serve over whole grain pasta with a side of some easy veg the kids like


I’ll post some pics of the other go-to meals as I cook them. Won’t be long! (Because I cook them all the darn time.)

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