Posted by: Hil | March 3, 2009

What’s For Dinner?


What’s for dinner?  Sounds like a simple question, but then why does it have me stumped so often?  My externship this semester has been a wonderful experience academically and professionally, but the hours and the commute typically leave me feeling tired and uninspired by the time dinner rolls around.  It looks like I’m going to have an even longer commute over the summer, so I’ve been trying to troubleshoot my lack of inspiration before then.  Last night, I decided to go back to basics:  pan-fried chicken tenders, wilted spinach, and quinoa with homemade tahini sauce with a side of slow roasted tomatoes.  I think that this meal is perfect.  It’s flavorful and pretty and fast and my body always feels so completely satisfied at the end of it.  If any meal could jolt me into remembering why I like cooking, this would be it.  I love this meal so much that I found myself looking forward to it all day.  I was tired when I got home, but the thought of my meal motivated me to get right to work cooking.  I flipped on Food Network to keep me occupied while I cooked.

I was in the middle of seasoning my chicken when I had something of epiphany.  With my new job, I’d done my very best to carve out sufficient time for cooking and grocery shopping, but I hadn’t carved out time to think or plan for my meals.  While I was in school, and even at  my last summer job, I would almost always plan out what I wanted to cook for dinner earlier in the day.  It wasn’t a long or laborious planning process:  I would just take a quick mental inventory of the fridge while I made breakfast and then spend five minutes or so browsing recipes and figuring out exactly what I wanted to cook sometime during the day.  This semester, I’ve fallen out of the habit without even realizing.

So today, I resolved to think about dinner ahead of time.  I took a few minutes in the morning to assess the contents of the fridge.  There was a package of ground turkey that definitely needed to be used up, and the leftover quinoa and tahini sauce from the night before should probably be used up soon, too.  There were plenty of different veggies.  I mulled a bit over lunch.  What to cook?  Turkey burgers made sense–better yet, make it kebabs–they would go well with the leftover tahini.  I remembered seeing a contestant on Top Chef make a quinoa cake, so why not try that for a side dish?  Here’s what I came up with:  turkey “kebab”, quinoa cake, wilted spinach (zapped in the microwave) and a side of tahini sauce.


First thing I did when I got home was to delegate the kebabs to the Lemonator.  (Delegation is much easier when you know exactly what needs to be done!)  He loves spicing up ground meat and added garlic, paprika, cayenne and various spice blends.   We hit a slight hitch when we realized we didn’t have any skewers to cook the meat on, but we baked them in the oven for half an hour instead and that seemed to work just fine.  Here they are, pre-cooking.


For the quinoa cake, I added an egg, a splash of milk, a pinch of flour and seasonings to my leftover quinoa.


Then I spooned out the mixture into a hot pan with a little canola oil and fried on both sides until a nice brown crust had formed.  These were delicious and much more fun to eat than the plain quinoa.  I found myself imagining other possible things to do with them as I ate.  (I really want to try one with a fried egg on top for breakfast one of these days!) 


For dessert, the husband and I broke into the Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice that came in the mail today.


I am one lucky blogger.  I adore pomegranate juice and I would drink a lot more of it if it weren’t so expensive.  Even better, this juice comes in (*gasp*) 8 oz. servings.  Yep, that’s right–you can crack open a bottle of juice that only has one serving of juice in it!  I am happy.  I am contemplating sharing my bounty, but I haven’t decided how much to hoard just yet.  The Lemonator (who is extremely picky about fruit) gives the juice a thumbs up, so I think I will at least share with him.


I guess I just need to remember that good food takes thought.  Lucky for me, I rather like thinking about food and cooking, so I just need to remember to do it.



  1. Both dinners look excellent. I want to try the quinoa cakes! I wonder if they would work with other grains?

    Enjoy your POM. You deserve it.

  2. Your dinner looks yummy and so does the box of juice. I often think about what to make for dinner on the train ride home!

  3. That looks like a delicious meal! I mean, if you can whip up quinoa cakes and homemade tahini sauce when you’re tired, you should have no trouble at all! 🙂

  4. That’s a great and creative use of what you have on hand!

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