Sometime between early November and the beginning of January, I had stumbled into a dinner rut. Often forgetting to pull something out of the freezer (which is full to bursting), dinners became dull affairs frequently consisting of grilled cheese, breakfast, or tacos. Nothing wrong with any of those foods, but when you have those for dinner at least once per week each, it gets old fast. It wasn't until I saw a recipe on 4 Hats and Frugal that I was snapped from my perilous rut.
Lurking as I tend to during moments of hunger and boredom (funny how those always seem to go hand in hand, isn't it?), I began picking my way through recipe sites and blogs, through food manufacturer websites and restaurant menus. Now, when I hit that last one (drooling over pictures of food from Applebees and Olive Garden), I knew something had to give.
I found some hidden gumption (or maybe I just momentarily lost it, whatever the case may be) and ventured bravely into the world of chili. Now, I'm a bit of a picky eater at the best of times, so for someone that protested to hate chili (and its despicable beans, to0), my family was notably surprised when I told them to be ready for a Tex-Mex style, no beans chili.....with mushrooms. Even to my ears, it sounded odd, but curiosity got the better of my family.....
The chili came up aces! Even I liked it, which was the biggest surprise of all. In between bites, I mumbled about how I may have learned to like chili sooner if I knew the beans weren't necessary, that mushrooms could be added, and that you could top it with cheese. Anything with both cheese and mushrooms was a possibility in my book.
Trying to keep excited, I whipped up a batch of ginger-spiced pear bars with white chocolate and golden raisins for our dessert and almost cried at the tartness of the juicy pears, the sweet richness of golden raisins, and the gentle nip of ginger against the silkiness of the white chocolate. This was better than dining out - no where else could I find flavors so bold, so striking, so fun, and so affordable.
The next week, I tried to keep things lively with a batch of quickie chickie, a 3-cheese mushroom omelet, and the inevitable set in.......

I forgot to thaw something for dinner, and it was back to grilled cheese - again. Nothing else seemed appealing, thawing takes the kind of time I don't have at 5 p.m. when I get home from work and start on dinner. Luckily for me, the grilled cheese was not to be. DM had been out shopping that day, and boy does that lady have a weakness for meat sales. In this case, the culprit that enticed her was $1.49 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Needless to say, she got several pounds worth.
As she & I chatted, it became clear that the days of grilled cheese as a staple dinner menu option were not merely numbered, but that their numbers had run out.
I scampered into the kitchen, trying to think of what to pair with the chicken I was slicing and dicing while using some of the fresh produce I had been buying lately. On the counter were some amazing red, orange, and yellow bell peppers. The orange bell peppers were so vibrant, I knew they'd have to go in this creation. I went to the fridge and pulled out a half pound of mushrooms. While looking at these ingredients, the only side dishes that made sense was some chicken flavored Rice-A-Roni, salad, and a pile of tortillas.
Once the chicken was chopped, the mushrooms sliced, and the peppers finely chopped - there was only one thing to do: get out a large covered skillet and start cooking. First went the chicken and mushrooms, some spices, a little marinade, then the peppers. 10 minutes later, the house smelled like a Chinese-Mexican fusion restaurant. What could be closer to heaven? Nothing.
DH comes home from work as I'm smelling heaven, opens the door, and grins. He hasn't said a word, but he's never this happy about grilled cheese. He walks past me, giving me a distracted kiss while heading straight into the kitchen and eyeing what's on the stove. Still smiling, he casually remarks, "No grilled cheese, huh? That's cool." Without being asked, the table is set, the drinks are poured, and my hubby and mother are both peeking around the entryway between the parlor and the kitchen waiting.
In a flash, we're sitting around the kitchen table. Before diving in, I attempt to savor the moment, breathing in the tangy scent of pepper and sweet, fresh citrusy scent. DH had already dove into the chicken, pausing briefly only to ask if I'd like a tortilla. One bite and I know my days of ordering orange chicken are done. The chicken is sweet and tangy, the peppers and mushrooms combined with the marinade to make for a robust, rich sauce.
What little there was left of that meal became my lunch for the next day, where one of my coworkers exclaimed, "That smells amazing." I simply grinned and replied with thank you, I'll type up the recipe next week.
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1 Response
  1. I too have been in a rut. I am glad it was not just me! I think that your dinner sounds appetizing. I look forward to the post of the recipe. I may have to give it a try and see if it lifts me out of my rut.

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