Everyday dinner help for a brand new "grown-up"
I've lived on my own for a while, and cooked since I was small, but the work schedule I've had for the past few years has meant that I basically scrounged or got takeout during the week, and did big deal (read: too expensive and labor intensive for every day) cooking projects for fun on the weekend. This means I have some amazing recipes for things like polpettine stuffed with goat cheese and scallops in citrus buerre blanc, but I have no idea how to plan a week's worth of normal dinner menus. As of this past weekend I am now living in my first real grown-up apartment with someone (we decorated! we have a dining room table! and a dishwasher!) and working hours that give me plenty of time in the evening to cook, and having a real dinner together is something that is important to me. I would love to hear some mid-week go-to dinner menus/ideas that I can shamelessly steal and pass off as my own to impress my boyfriend. :)
I'd also love cookbook recommendations that fit the bill, as I've tended to gravitate towards ones that are pretty, fancy and impractical.
It all depends on what you are interested in making, for example, Chicken, Pasta, Roast, etc. My favorite go to dinner is Smoked Gouda Stuffed Shrimp Wrapped in Bacon. Its easy with only three ingredients and if I show up for family holiday dinners without it, I'm in trouble!
Others include Ancho Orange Glazed Chicken with Sweet Potato Hash (I won a national contest prize with this one), Pan Seared Pork Tenderloin with Peach BBQ sauce and corn Pudding and also a Roasted Asparagus & Red Grape Salad with Crispy Prosciutto, Cornbread Croutons & Red Grape Vinaigrette. Again, depends on your interests. I don't own many cookbooks and prefer cooking related magazines like Gourmet, Bon Appetit and Food & Wine.
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Jacques Pepin's cookbooks, "Fast Food My Way" (there are two or three of them) may be just the thing. You can also find some of his PBS shows online or buy the DVDs as well. Everything can be cooked in 30 minutes or less (although prep time can push it up by 15 minutes or so). I always get hungry and inspired watching the shows.
For dinner this week, the girlfriend and I will be having salmon with asparagus (had that tonight).
Wed. we're having quesadillas, might make mexican rice and some black beans if feel up to it.
Then we're going to have either chili or split pea soup, both of which we have have leftovers of in the freezer.
Other common after work dinners are buffalo burgers, pork chops, fish and shellfish is very easy, paella is always fun, stuffed banana peppers, tacos, fish tacos, steak salad, meatloaf and mashed potatos, grilled pizza. I have recipes for most if you'd like any.
I have a few general tips to offer. First, look first to things you already eat but maybe don't often make at home. When you were getting takeout, what were you getting? Possbily things you can instead be making - look for recipes for those things to start, since at least you know they are things you like to eat. For us, this means Indian curry, Thai food, etc. Not that I need an entire Indian food cookbook, for example, just to make the few things we typically like. Doesn't have to be exotic either - maybe your fav takeout is chicken parm or meatloaf or something. Also - this may give you a better idea, once you start cooking, of seeing what to look for in a cookbook.
Second would be don't overlook the value of the weekend for planning and possible useful cooking ahead. For example, this past weekend I roasted 2 whole chickens (there are just 2 adults in our household). That yielded the traditional roast chicken dinner with sides over the weekend. I picked all the meat off the (cooled) cooked chicken and will use that later in the week. Tonight it went into chicken enchiladas, which are pretty quick if you've already got the cooked chicken on hand. That cooked chicken could go into a pasta dish too. And, I'll freeze some of it to pull out in another few days to a week for even more meals.