It's Thursday, and if you're anything like me on most weeks, you've run out of all of the food you bought last weekend. You've run out of dinner ideas—if you had any in the first place. You've run out of time. Generally speaking. Don't worry. Don't succumb to spending $40 to $100 on takeout (my kids eat like men). What to do is this: Survey your freezer and your fridge and your cabinets and make a kick-ass buffet. Use those convenience items. Don't be shy. Have no shame. What's that they say? Try to be perfect and you end up a shitshow? Kidding, kidding: I know: it's perfect is the enemy of good. It's true.
Anyway, if you don't know what to have for dinner, do what I did on Tuesday and embrace the easy. Here are some ideas that will work for a variety of have-on-hand scenarios (and/or my unsolicited advice about what to buy next time).
First, fancy up a totally pre-made frozen entree.
These here are tamales from Trader Joe's (thanks for the tip, Elisa!), cut in half and topped with a slice of avocado to make them look all appetizer-y. Purchasing pre-made tamales from TJ's is a no-brainer because: 1) they're relatively healthy 2) they contain meat, which my family loves and I never make, and 3) I WILL NEVER MADE TAMALES FROM SCRATCH. But there's no reason you shouldn't buy and serve healthy entrees that you actually would make because YOU'RE BUSY and food should not be stressful. So also try using—or next time stocking up on—these things: pizza (healthier and way cheaper than the ones you order), veggie burgers. Remember: halving or quartering standard servings makes things look cute. You could also go the route (which I often do), of buying frozen salmon or turkey/veggie meatballs and rounding out the meal with grains and veggies (see more soon)—but I consider that legit cooking.
Grab those prehistoric bags of frozen veggies.
And cook 'em up. Now's a good a day as any. Above is a bowl of grilled cauliflower, again from Trader Joe's. It legit has two ingredients: grilled cauliflower and salt. For all intents and purposes, it's just as good for you as regular roasted cauliflower: delivering detoxifying isothiocyanates, fiber and all that jazz. I know this because I have a master's degree in nutrition. Not to brag. Just to let you know that my opinion is informed by facts and my opinion is this: there is no shame in frozen veggies. (Note: I agree that they sometimes feel limp and soggy-ish. But frozen veggies are better than no veggies and if that really bothers you can go for things like peas and corn.) Or you can just eat things like snap peas and green beans and cherry tomatoes from the fridge. (See two blurbs down.)
Make something starchy you have stashed in a cabinet—real quick.
And by "real quick" I mean approximately 20 minutes, start to finish. This here is one giant (mutant?) sweet potato turned into baked fries (375 to 400 degrees for 20ish minutes) that one of my kids will eat until he turns orange. Ketchup is totally okay. Sweet potatoes, or potatoes of any kind, are also a great base for a bowl. Like rice (quick-cooking brown), quinoa and other grains. In the case of a bowl, you just pull ALLLLL the things out (beans, veggies, avocado, cheese) and put them on the table. Let the people decide what to pile on top.
Raid the refrigerator.
Peel the oranges. Slice up some cheese. Put out some hummus. And olives. And pickles. It's a picnic! Toast up old pita or just regular bread. Slice it in triangles to impress the people. Use all the stuff. Dinner is SERVED.