Can't Decide What's For Dinner? Try The Side Dish Solution

5 years ago

I’m so embarrassed to admit this to you. How can I possibly have such a huge problem? Me! The person who:

  • keeps a copy of Fine Cooking Magazine in the car to read at red lights;
  • has friends calling to ask if homemade corn dogs should be frozen before or after cooking;
  • comes back from a holiday in Switzerland jabbering non-stop about röschti and raclette only to go completely silent when asked about the mountains.
  • has a freaking food blog, for crying out loud!

But honestly, it is me who has this problem: I can never figure out what to make for dinner.

Now don’t go being all kind by saying, “Christine, that’s because you have so many great ideas! It must be so hard to settle on one thing.”

Thanks but nope, that’s not it. I pace around the produce section with a lonely pack of chicken breasts in my cart at least 10 times a month. And it’s not a million meals that I’m mentally sorting through. I’m honestly trying to come up with just one, which is nearly impossible when there’s a voice in my head yelling, “Quick! Think of something:

  • that both you and the hubs will like and J might actually eat!
  • that isn’t too boring!
  • that involves lots of vegetables and grains!
  • that can be prepared quickly!
  • that uses some of what you have at home!
  • that isn’t too similar to what you had last night!
  • and do it RIGHT NOW!”

I also feel the pressure when trying to make a meal plan or even just a simple grocery list (although sometimes I do this with a glass of pinot grigio and am then not quite as stressed).

What’s a girl to do?

I tried the monthly meal-planning thing but it compounded the stress (30 ideas required RIGHT NOW! Eek!). I abandoned it and am back to planning 3 or 4 days in advance sometimes, winging it most of the time.

But there is hope. Lately when I sit down to make a list or when I’m stranded in front of the broccoli with those poor chicken breasts, I have a new way of tackling the problem.

The Side Dish Solution

Instead of trying to come up with an idea for a full meal I just come up with one idea for one interesting side dish.

The theory: If there’s one good and unboring side dish, then the rest of the meal can be simple and even uninspired without causing the whole dinner to be a flop.

I swear. This totally works. For example, today I’m sharing my recipe for Couscous with Chorizo, Thyme and a Spritz of Lemon. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Now check this out. It sounds just as good if we surround it with boring stuff:

Baked Chicken Breasts, Green Beans and Couscous with Chorizo, Thyme and a Spritz of Lemon

And it doesn’t just work with the words. It works when you start chewing as well. That one interesting side dish completely transforms an otherwise boring meal.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing more Side Dish Solutions with you. Let me know if you agree that one good side dish makes for a seriously unboring meal.

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