a list to answer “what the hell should i make for dinner?!”

Hubby comes home around 9 most nights, and because I like to eat dinner together, we often do not finish dinner until 930 or so. I’ve had zero exercising desire, and I really needed something to counteract the laziness that was manifesting as rolls around my midsection. And I figured it couldn’t hurt to cut out some calories and sugars at the end of the night.

Note – I have always been against super extreme low carb diets. Not for everyone, but definitely for me. I just feel like a grump when I can’t eat a piece of bread or some earthy brown rice with my meal. Maybe that’s just served as a good excuse all this time : )

My lack of blogging over the last couple months and my growing list of low carb dinners have unfortunately NOT resulted in lots of fun pictures. Sorry team.

But! Ohhh, but but but!

I have a list of ideas for you instead. I have totally trolled websites for just a simple list of inspiring combinations in the past. I don’t necessarily need recipes. Sometimes it’s just nice to be reminded that a handful of ingredients go really well together, and to then be pushed out of the nest to figureĀ out how.

A few things to note – by low carb, I mean simply the absence of starchy foods and simple carbs. In most cases, I’ve just doubled up the vegetable serving. What I thought I was doing was getting rid of simple carbs. Ironically, in doing this, I realized that we actually ate a lot of complex carbs (whole wheat pasta, brown rice) which are good, and stayed away from a lot of the emptier carbs. But what kept us going was that we didn’t feel so heavy after our meals.

Also, I’ll add to this list periodically. I warn you, I’ve been writing every dish down, whether good or bad. It’s up to you to make it work. Let me know if anything inspires you!

May the forks be with you.

– salt & pepper blade steak with swiss chard (or other hearty, leafy green)
i kept the seasoning on the steaks simple and cooked them in a pan.
here’s one of my favorite ways to cook the greens; ironically, i’ve never used this recipe for kale: Basic Sauteed Kale.

– open faced turkey burger on portobello “bun”
you can buy pre-made turkey burgers, or make your own with ground turkey, onions, and seasoning, just like beef.
grilling large portobello mushrooms can create an awesome texture. use one or two, according to preference.
top with whatever you have, like arugula, roasted peppers, cheese (or make a fancy goat cheese sauce)…

– portobello meatball subs
okay so i tried using these like bread again. it was more of a circular sub? but who cares because it was effing delicious. i bought turkey meatballs from trader joes. they are fabulous. get some. i warmed them up, then put them in a saucepan with warm basil and roasted tomato marinara. grilled the shrooms, threw a few meatballs on top and a little shredded cheese. it was great!

– cauliflower mash with some kind of curry or indian vegetable stew (and if you’re with me, ground turkey)

hi, i’m califlower mash. your life is about to change.

i seriously, seriously, doubted cauliflower mash. i don’t like cauliflower. they make you fart. well they make me fart. it doesn’t matter anyway though because this cauliflower mash one me over. it’s too easy to not do again. cut them up, boil them until soft, then mash and add the same ingredients as you do in your favorite mash potatoes. yes i put milk. no, not as much as you would with potatoes i guess. wing it!

– turkey lasagna with zucchini noodles and spinach
cut zucchini lengthwise in 1/4″ slices. roast them until soft. (i just realized, you could probably boil them, too.) i took the cooked zucchini, layered the bottom of a pasta bowl with them, put a layer of raw spinach (they’ll wilt with the heat), a layer of ground turkey mix (already cooked ground turkey with pasta sauce, garlic, salt, pepper, whatever you like to put in there), topped with ricotta cheese, mozzerella, aaaand repeat. just use your favorite lasagna recipe, and replace the noodles with zucchini and a layer of spinach. easy.

– zucchini noodles, turkey meatballs & sauce
or cut the zucchini in long matchsticks. boil them until nice and soft, drain well and top with your favorite meat or marinara sauce. add some sauteed veggies if you’d like.

– taco salad
i mean, it’s a dinner salad. just take the stuff you would put on tacos, and put them on a bed of romaine lettuce. make some cilantro lime dressing, and you’re good to go.

-stuffed chicken with chard
stuffing chicken is easy. just make a little cut on edge of the thick part of a chicken breast. use your fingers (or just the knife if you’re too squeamish) to open a cavity in the chicken breast. careful, you want to try and keep the holes to a minimum, which is why fingers are sometimes your best tool. then stuff it with whatever you want! cheese, mushrooms and other veggies, sausage, whatever! i recommend cooking the ingredients just a wee bit before you mix them all up and put them in the chicken. since the chicken has been split, it will cook a lot faster than just a regular piece of chicken breast. you can put it in a pan, or bake it. use the same chard recipe as the kale, or find your new favorite.

– scallops with roasted broccolli
how the hell do you spell brocolli? i can never get it right. dammit.
grill or pan sear the scallops with your chosen seasonings. roast the brocoli. broccoli. ugh. whatever.

– spaghetti squash & turkey tomato sauce
spaghetti squash. turn your oven to 350. cut the squash in half length-wise. yes, it’s tough, but do this, and it’s smooth sailing from here on out. pull out an oven safe glass dish, and add about a 1/2″ of water. put the squash cut-side-down into the pyrex with the water. bake for about 30-45 minutes. bake it so long that when you stick a fork in it, the once-tough exterior gives itself freely to the fork tines. pull the squash out (you can let it cool a bit if you need to), and rake a fork across the flesh from top to bottom. you’ll notice that it pulls away in strands. that, my friends, is spaghetti squash. made softly enough, really hungry kids will not even notice. now do what you do with spaghetti.

– salsa chicken & spinach
even back in college, this was a go-to dish for me. just take chicken breast, put in in an oven-safe dish, dump a good amount of your favorite salsa on top, cover with foil, and bake like you would any kind of baked chicken. saute some spinach and put it on the side. you can add corn to the spinach for extra texture. i just made the corn part up, but it sounds good.

– steak & asparagus
i mean this is self-explanatory.

roasted chicken & broccoli au gratin
roast chicken or buy some from the store. be careful though; the store-bought ones have a lot of sodium. that’s why they’re so delicious.

– chicken sausage & roasted brussel sprouts
trader joes has the best chicken sausages. costco has some, too, but i like joes’ better. roasted brussel sprouts are easy. one of these days, i’ll link to a future post in which i take pictures of myself roasting brussel sprouts. side note, my mom used to call brussel sprouts – “bastard sprouts.” it’s a long story, but funny nonetheless.

– turkey lettuce wraps & miso soup
i usually make a mix of ground turkey, mushrooms (shitake or baby belles), shredded carrots, thin strips of red/yellow/orange peppers and put a quick sauce of worcestshire, soy, powdered ginger, sesame seeds, sesame oil if i have it, and whatever else i feel like putting together. use bibb lettuce, like the live ones. and for miso, don’t worry. i cheat and use the mix.

– lemon chicken piccata with roasted asparagus topped with a balsamic reduction and shaved parmesan
i used the directions for the lemon chicken piccata from this recipe. the asparagus? i just threw them in the oven. while they were roasting, in a small saucepan i mixed balsamic vinegar and some brown sugar. i reduced the bejeezus out of it until it was nice and thick. i took the asparagus out, threw on some big, flat pieces of shaved parmesan, and drizzled with the balsamic reduction. as much as i love lemon, the chicken was a little too lemony. the sweetness of the balsamic reduction went reeeally well with this.

– orange beef lettuce wraps
same thing as the turkey lettuce wraps really, but with a reduced orange sauce. i used this, and in one of those rare moment, followed the recipe pretty closely. it was super worth it. did i remember to save the recipe? no. but i’ll find it. because i want to make it again, so don’t fret.

turkey, yellow pepper, pearl onion, garlic on a roasted portabello cap
– that pretty much says it all right there. spice it how you like it.

Essentially though, here’s what I found. Use squash to serve the place of pasta. Use portobello to take the place of buns. Rice? Rice I have yet to come up with a worthy substitution. OR take these, and add pasta or rice to them. It’s all about inspiration!

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