Help Me Help Myself

701 701_ () 701 701 I have a tall request for you. It’s tall for me, but I think for a lot of you, it’s not tall. Which is why I need help — something that might seem easy to many, but is very challenging for me.

I need meal ideas.

Friends, relatives, long-time readers (and, who am I kidding, probably most short-time readers too) know that cooking is not my forte. It’s not that I am a bad cook. When I cook, I do pretty well. It’s just, coming up with ideas is so frustrating. And I put off thinking about it because it’s so tough for me. And then, when it’s that time of day to start cooking and I don’t have a plan, well then it’s all the more frustrating. And you can see where this is going…right into the loving arms of General Tso at China City.

I made a pledge to Paul recently that I would start trying, really trying, to have homecooked foods on a regular basis. My standards are not high, and fortunately my men are not picky. Soup and sandwiches, eggs and grits, liver and onions — these are all acceptable (except that last one. That was just for cadence.).

So here’s my request: that you would please, pretty please, leave a comment with just one meal idea. No need for recipes; I can do the legwork from there. It’s just the idea that I’m looking for, just a push in the right direction.

If I knew all of you in person, I’d totally trade out a task — I’d come organize a drawer for you, or keep your floors clean or fill your toilets with PineSol. Something I’m good at.

But this? For this I need help.

UPDATE: WOW! Thank you all! I can’t wait to sit down and work on my menu. I think I might be able to do one for the entire year. 701″ ,



  1. Here’s one that works in our family-
    Impossibly Easy Southwestern Pie from the Bisquick site. Pretty easy and works for Lent too. I hope you get some good ideas, maybe it will inspire me to do some cooking as well-

  2. Chicken & Spinach Crock Pot Lasagna from the Weight Watchers cookbook (sure doesn’t taste diet), garlic toast, salad.

    I can sympathize….and my crowd is pickier than it sounds like yours is.

  3. Have you tried Leanne Ely is the author and also has a cook book called saving dinner-the basics (or something like that). In it there are menus, recipes, and shopping list! Fun stuff! HOnest!


  4. I second the SAVING DINNER option. Get the book — the recipes are quick, easy, and good for little kids (I’ve got 6 kids 8 and under, so I know picky!). Garlic-lime chicken (which we have over a mandarin orange/spinach salad) is EASY and wonderful!

  5. Here is a great one that my kids (19 and 21, boys, natch) still like. Scrambled eggs tortillas. Scramble the eggs, butter up the tortillas, put eggs on tortillas with ketchup. Don’t skimp on butter or ketchup.


  6. Mom of boys says:

    Okay, I am going to cheat and leave a recipe – our family favorite is chicken divan over rice. Boil and cut up 4 chicken breasts (or buy already cooked!). Cook 1 1/2 bags frozen broccoli. Put broccoli and then chicken in 9×13 pan. Mix 1 tsp lemon juice, 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1/2 tsp curry powder, 2 cans cream of chicken soup and pour over chicken. Top with shredded cheddar cheese and bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Serve over rice. You can even mix up the dish in afternoon or morning, put it in the refrigerator and pop it in oven just before dinner.

  7. Broccoli & rice casserole w/ chicken. Quick and easy with veggies in cheese. So good.

  8. A couple of ideas:

    If you have access to tortillas, they can be wrapped around a lot of things.

    Refried beans with cheddar cheese,

    Black beans with monterey jack cheese and cilantro,

    Grilled or broiled chicken with peppers and onions,

    Ground turkey sauteed with peppers and onions. Add poultry seasoning,

    Ground turkey also makes terrific burgers. Use bread crumbs and poultry seasonings to make the burgers.

    Watch Rachael Ray if can for good ideas.

  9. My family loves pork chops cooked in a crock pot with spices and apple slices-juicy, tender & easy. Add mashed potatoes for a side, along with a salad- nice,home cooked meal.

  10. MyHusbandRules says:

    My tip isn’t a meal either, it’s a cookbook. The 5 in 10 cookbook. Meals with 5 ingredients or less than can be made in 10 minutes or less. I love it because it’s my ultimate emergency go to (and my husband’s favorite meal out of it is the quicky version of Pork Adobo). Not cuisine, but it’s bailed me out at times when the brain stops functioning.

  11. Two words: Quesa, dilla.

  12. I put together a Word document that looks like a calendar. On it are all the things I know how to make on different days. I don’t follow the days exactly, but I have a quick glance at what I can make and run that against what I have on hand or need to buy. Also to help, generally Monday is Italian and Tuesday is Mexican. I’ll email it to you. Two family favorites are Chicken Pot Pie (buy the pie dough, mix cooked chicken, Veg All, cream of chicken (or celery) soup, onion powder, top it with other pie dough and bake it. The other is chicken enchiladas (try to get Las Palmas green enchilada sauce), mix a little with the chicken and cheddar, roll it into tortillas, pour the rest on top, sprinkle with more cheddar, bake. Other tip, keep cooked chicken and cooked crumbled hamburger in the freezer to make tacos, chili, etc. so much easier. When you buy the hamburger, cook it right away and freeze it in 1 pound portions. Sorry if I typed too much.

  13. Here is a campbell’s soup recipe:
    1 can (10 3/4 oz) Cream of Chicken Soup
    1 1/3 cup of Water
    3/4 cup of uncooked long grain rice
    1/2 tsp onion powder
    4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
    1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

    1. Stire soup, water, rice, vegetables and onion powder in a 12″x8″ shallow baking dish.
    2. Top with chicken, Season chicken as desired. Cover.
    3. Bake at 375 F for 45 min or until done. Top with cheese. Makes 4 servings.

    Growing up this is basically how my mom did her meals. Everything in a casserole dish and baked. You don’t even need to use chicken breasts . Any chicken pieces (skinned or unskinned) will do.

    And I think is a great resource.. as well

    God bless.

  14. My favorite resource is Cooking Light. I love their cookbook “Super Fast Suppers” which are healthy, easy and fast. Some of our favorites are calzones, Mexican pizza, chicken & bean soup, and various salads. I also have a recipe for a delicious pork loin with apricot glaze. Oh! And I love to do shepherd’s pie in the winter months and if I’m too lazy to do mashed potatoes, tater tots work like a charm! Hope this helps.

  15. For a really quick meal, I always turn to stir-fry! Pick up a bag in the frozen food isle. If I have leftover beef or chicken, it only takes 5 minutes! Make some Minute rice, grab some tortillas and you are ready to go. Our as my 2 year old says…..torteeta:)

    Hope this help!

  16. Campbell Soup Recipes. You can order there cookbooks for less then $ 5.00.

    Here is a recipe my kid’s love (4 & 5)

    Corn Casserole

    1 can whole corn (drain)
    1 can cream style corn
    1 stick of butter (melted)
    1 8 oz sour cream
    1 box Jeffy Corn Bread Mix (dry mix)

    Mix all above ingredient together in a casserole dish. Bake at 350 for 1 hour or until Golden Brown.

    Very easy recipe and a great big hit with my kids.

  17. my husband is a big fan of grilled chicken, so the george foreman is one of the most used appliances in our kitchen. simple meal? near east’s parmesan couscous – yum! – some steamed broccoli and a grilled chicken breast… i put them on frozen, so they stay moist. if you’re not counting calories, then throw a slice of cheese on the top of the chicken breast to melt.

  18. Christine C. says:

    I use the recipes in Real Simple magazine every month for my meals. They’re great, some are quick, easy meals and some are meals you’d make at a dinner party. Then I save the ones I like in a binder (each pg goes in a clear plastic page) and reuse when I need a meal idea; the binder also works for meals I find on that I like. They’ve got a great feature that allows you to search by ingredients, so if you know you’ve got chicken thawed and want avocado with it, it’ll churn out some great recipes. The binder seems to fit your organizational freakiness, a gift and a burden I share with you.

  19. I’m not sure if there’s a store near you, but I love Super Suppers ( You go in, put together 6 or 12 meals, freeze them when you get home. Defrost the morning you want to eat them, and they take 5-15 minutes to cook. And they’re delicious! It’s about $120 for 6 meals with 6 servings in each meal.

  20. My mama’s Chicken Alissa-named after my sister.

    Use a cut up fryer. Preheat oven to 350. Place chicken in pan. Salt, pepper, and garlic powder the pieces all over. Sprinkle each piece with a little oregano. Splash each piece with a little worchestire (spx?) and a little white wine. Place a small lemon slice on top, followed by a pat of butter. bake at 350 uncovered for 1hour and 15 minutes. (you can broil it the last 2-3 minutes to crisp the top, but it can burn fast).

    It looks and tastes fancy and awesome. Is great with potatoes or rice or pasta, a salad, and a green veggie (I like it with creamed spinach). It’s great because most of the stuff you have on hand.

    happy cookin’.

  21. Any meat thrown in a salad (with french fries on top if you want to be fancy) is good.

    Anything from a crock pot is nice too, because you can do it in the morning and not have to worry about rushing to get dinner done.
    We like turkey sloppy joes, meatball sandwiches or spaghetti from crock pots, specifically.

    I wish it was possible to co-op household chores. I don’t mind making dinner, but our drawers? Organized? Huh?

  22. I love to make Baked Ziti. My recipe is super simple, so I’ll go ahead and share it. 1 lb. ziti noodles, cooked; 1 lb ground beef or sausage; cooked; 1 lb mozzarella cheese, shredded; 1 jar pasta sauce. Layer in pan, each layer twice, ending with cheese. Bake 350 for 30 minutes. It makes a ton. For my family of 4, I half the recipe.

    I had a friend who had 4 weeks of recipes and she just rotated the weeks. I’ve also done things like Monday – chicken dish; Tuesday – Italian dish; Wednesday – grill; etc.

  23. Tonight we are having Salsbury Steak, mashed potatoes, noodles, corn and rolls, one of my 24 year old son’s favorites. A good way to get him over for dinner weekly is to cook home cooking like this, the rest of the week we do chicken breasts, grilled meals or sandwiches, soup or salads. It is a chore to get motivated for me, too. Thankfully my husband loves to cook and is much better than me! All the kids say so! Happy dinner time!

  24. Life is definitely better with the Day-of-the-week-Theme! I like Monday-soup, and Tuesday-mexican, etc. Plus, Desperate Chicken Bricks. Buy lots of chicken (with the bone-in, skin-on) on sale. Go straight home and put it in big pots, which you bring to a boil and then simmer for several hours (or overnight). Remove from pot with slotted spoon. Pull off skin. Pull off bone. Put four chicken breasts in a ziploc with a little melted butter. Squeeeeze slowly and gentlely until all the air is out of the bag. Freeze. Eventually defrost. It will look like a brick made out of chicken! Really, what CAN’T you do with four tender chicken breasts! For example …

    Mexican chicken: top with salsa, shredded cheese, bake at 350 for 30 min. Serve over yellow rice.
    Italian chicken: top with marinara sauce, mozzerella, bake at 350 for 30 min. (maybe with black olives)
    Autumn chicken: top with chopped yellow apple, cranberry sauce, bake at 350 for 30 min. Peas? Mashed potatoes?

    Chicken soup: saute onion and celery in 1/2 stick butter, add three quarts of bouillon (Wylers concentrate cubes), tablespoon majoram, egg noodles, random veggies, boil ten minutes. (if you add the frozen peas right before serving they stay a nice green color)

    Chicken Rice: four cups minced chicken, four cups cooked white rice, cream of chicken, cream of celery, two cups cream, tablespoon pepper. Sprinkle top with more pepper. 350 for 30 minutes. (aka fake risotto)

    BBQ chicken: GOOD bbq sauce, 30 min at 350. (GOOD sauce like Rendevous in Memphis, which you can order online)

    If you don’t have a DESPERATE chicken brick, use a rotisserie chicken!

  25. Shepherd’s pie

    Chicken Spaghetti



    Hamburger Steak

    Shake and Bake pork or chicken

    Store bought tortellini and sauce

    Grilled tilapia


  26. Chili. What could be easier than chili? And the leftovers can make a great topping for baked potatoes or on salads, or nachos, or that Shepherd’s pie that someone mentioned.
    Also, as several people mentioned… you cannot beat the crock pot. Best homemade mac and cheese I have ever tasted came from a crock pot recipe.
    hmm.. I’m getting hungry now. :o( xoxo mg

  27. I can never plan dinner the day of. I set aside a little time Saturday morning (usually while eating breakfast) and flip through our cookbooks for ideas. I pick out 6 or 7 recipes that look tasty and assign them to a day. Just having that plan gives me the motivation to pick up any extra ingredients and start cooking BEFORE I’m starving and desperate. Also get the boys in the kitchen to help. They can measure ingredients, stir pots, grate cheese, etc. It actually makes the cooking go faster and more fun.

  28. I agree with the Garlic Lime Chicken suggestion – it is awesome! You can get the recipe from the Flylady’s website:

    Give it a try!


  29. Turkey Meatloaf is easy, filling, and pretty healthy. You can easily add some mashed potatoes and a vegetable. Any vegetable will do- I think a green one rounds out the presentation nicely. I don’t know how picky the boys are with vegetables, but a favorite of mine is green beans with spaetzle. They’re delicious (and microwaveable!). They are made by either Bird’s Eye or Green Giant.

  30. Go to Kraft Foods web site. Then find the Food and Family magazine. It’s published quarterly and I love their recipes. Best part – it’s free

  31. Rachel, Salmon w/ stir fry veg over rice. Put some olive oil in frying pan w/ garlic fresh or granulated. add frozen stir fry veg top w/ frozen salmon from sams sprinkle citrus seasoning ontop of salmon cover and cook until salmon done. This will take 15-20 minutes serve over instant brown rice cooked in microwave. This gets rave reviews and is sooo easy.

    hot dogs baked beens chips
    hambergers fr fries veg chips
    chicken divane recipee
    mentioned earlier
    eggs bacon biscuts
    gilled chicken in george foreman
    w/garlic cajun seasoning
    over instant brown rice
    spagetti,ziti,tortellini w/ italian
    sausage,Hunts spagetti
    easy enchaladais casserole
    cook ground beef
    season with mexican
    seasoning(taco seasoning) add tomato puree layer meat cheddar corn tortillas in pan like lazagna
    bake 30 min 350

    this recipee can also be done w/ chicken and use mush soup,milk,green chillies for a whitesauce and layer w/ flour tortillas and white mexican cheese


    yellow saffron rice cooked and mixed w/ chilli magic beens put in flour tortillas w/ sour cream and cheese/ meatless meal tastes great serve w/ salad


    gary’s mom cooked the same recipees
    every mon- fri

    sloppy joes



    I always planned a menu for 2 weeks or a month and would go to the store and purchase all the ingredients and put in pantry and freezer so things are purchased and available decide the night before what you can cook depending on busyness and pull out meat in eve or morning plan ahead and things will go smoothly

    while the kids are young do what they like and if a simple schedule like Garys mom did works do it until they get older.

    Love, Louise Muir

  32. Sorry if it seems mundane, but my husband says he could eat this for breakfast, lunch and dinner: Spaghetti, tossed salad and toasted bread is so easy, elegant and customizable. A homemade sauce makes it more special, and there are plenty of recipes to be had–it’s also easy to invent your own. I have a hearty meatless sauce I like to prepare–seems like every Monday, and lots of Fridays. You can bake your own bread, or buy and toast a pre-sliced, buttered, and garlic-sprinkled loaf of French or Italian bread, or something in between. Sometimes I’ll make a cream cheese spread with basil and garlic. Salad is romaine lettuce and whatever I have handy (or at least tomatoes and cheese).

  33. If you like to grill, grill enough london broil or chicken breast for two meals. Then the second night have have the leftovers for fajita night. You can keep flour tortillas in the fridge or even the freezer til you need them. This is our summer standby (Monday night is fajita night); in the winter, Monday is soup night. Having a routine really helps. And whenever you can, cook enough for two meals so you always have something in the freezer for a busy day.

  34. I like the Saving Dinner cookbook that has 32 weeks of meal plans. I too loathe meal planning, although the cooking part really doesn’t bother me a bit.
    There is also a website where you can sign up to get her meal plans each week via email. Not every meal is a winner at my house, but at least we have variety!

    One meal idea…I’ve been craving Corn Chowder today!

  35. sweet and sour/BBQ meatballs with white rice, any veg

    tacos/burritos/quesadillas (try using corn tortillas and farmer’s cheese or mozzarella instead of cheddar for the quesadillas)

    shepherd’s pie – I add frozen veg to mine, usually carrots, corn, peas

    sausage, bacon & leek flan – a deep dish pie crust filled with egg, cheese and so on

    rigatoni with ricotta & parmesan cheeses and broccoli bits, topped with small amount of spaghetti sauce

    “the Ikea dinner” – meatballs, brown gravy, baby red potatoes, lignonberry sauce

    meatball sandwiches: marinara, meatballs, provolone, parmesan, rolls

    stir fry, dumplings/gyoza, rice

    ham slices in dijon/honey sauce, scalloped potatoes, green beans

    I am pretty much in the same boat. I make my menu from the 1-15 and 16-last day of month and go shopping at Costco twice a month, followed by shopping at the regular grocery store for the small stuff (when I don’t want ten pounds of green peppers) the day after. I have finally gotten things down to a system. When I rotate my fifteen to twenty or so recipes around, I know what basics I need to have on hand all the time and what to buy for each two week period. For me, this works better than something like grocery game (couponing and stockpiling random sale items) or freezer cooking. Happy cooking~

  36. I don’t really cook very much, (we ate out three times this weekend) but when I do, I tend to make:

    ~stir fry
    ~hangabers (hamburgers like Gramma’s with all kinds of good stuff in them)
    ~No Name Steak Salmon with baby reds,asparagus, and buns (works great for dinner parties, too!)
    ~Porkchops and Stove Top baked in a covered cake pan with cream of muchroom soup
    ~tater tot hotdish (tater tots, hamburger and one can each of cream of mushroom and cheddar soup, top with crunched up chips)
    ~ginger meatloaf
    ~cheesy garlic chicken as found on the back of the Lipton Savory Herb with Garlic box (dinner party dish)
    ~Loaded Baked Potatoes (be creative and top with chicken, cheese, veggeis, croutons, bacon, sour cream, ranch dressing, taco meat, etc) (fun for kids to make their own)
    ~Homemade Egg and Cheese Biscuits (like McDonalds)
    ~Cheeseburger Pie (Bisquick)
    ~Ham and Scallops

    I am fortunate to have a mother who lives to cook (although I didn’t get that gene) and she writes down easy recipes for me because she knows how much I HATE to cook. If all else fails, we just go to her house.

  37. Watch Rachel Ray on the Food Channel, great ideas.

    Get a crockpot, go to the library and get some recipe books for them and put the meals together in the morning, you can not go wrong.

    Any guy alive will love you for it.

  38. King Ranch Chicken

    Salmon seasoned with Lawry’s salt; serve with salad, peas, and bread.

    Chris G

  39. While the weather is nice, we(I) grill 2-3 times a week. Marinated flank steak, bbq chicken, burgers, etc. Tuesday night is always pasta night (married to an Italian-American, you know how it is!). I have three weeks of dinners in a chart on a Word file, and a grocery list for each week typed below. I print out a page with a week of dinners on it and shop once a week. The hard part for me was coming up with 10 or so meals that my gang of kids would all eat. Once I did that, the rest has been easy!

  40. Crockpot Country Style Ribs: ribs, BBQ sauce and sliced onions

    Meatloaf can be cooked in the crockpot too.

    Tacos are a perfect make ahead/ serve in a jiffy/clean up in a jiffy meal for those days you are on the run.

    Oven fried chicken.

    Ziti with loads of ground meat and italian sausage (or with spinach and other veggies). Freezes well.

  41. OH, you have got to see this adorable thing. It slices a hot dog to look like an octopus…. is that fun or what? (and dont say “what” – hahah)
    xoxo mg

  42. oops, i forgot the link

  43. I have to recommend Rachel Ray’s 365 no repeats cookbook. I just got a copy and it looks family friendly – lots of burgers, pastas, things that only take around 30 minutes with ingredients you actually keep around.
    Let’s not spend anymore time in the kitchen than we have to! Happy cooking!

  44. Wayne Tucker says:

    Pick a theme, chinese night,Italian night, southern fried night, Tex-Mex night. You get the drift – once you pick a theme it falls into place.

  45. My kids, even Matthew, who won’t touch veggies, love spinach and bacon quiche. Very easy, packed with spinach, cheese, bacon, and eggs, of course. Paula Deen’s recipe.

  46. Wow, what great ideas everyone has! My latest discovery is Lawry’s marinades. Pour half a bottle over some meat in a ziplock, grill or bake the meat and you’ve become a genius chef!
    And if you’re grilling, put ANY veggie in a foil pouch sprinkled with garlic salt and a teensy bit of olive oil, and not only do you have the best veggies ever, but there’s no pots & pans to clean. Serve with a side of rice or potatoes…

  47. Rachel Ray has a chicken and dumpling recipe (available online) that I turned into chicken stew by leaving out the dumpling part, and just thickening the sauce with corn starch/water mix. It’s a hearty quick dinner.

    Baked macaroni and cheese with ham is another family favorite. White sauce — 6tbs butter/ 6tbs flour / 4 cups milk / 16oz. shredded cheddar thrown in at the end. Add about 3/4 to a pound of ham, and mix together with a pund of elbows. Bake until bubbly.

  48. I like to sit down with recipes I have printed from the recipes or torn from magazines (never complicated ones!). Then I pick a few out for the week and make my shopping list at the same time.

  49. In my batchelor days I fixed a tuna caserole that became popular with my family (when it came along): Cook flat noodles, put in big bowl, add tuna fish, peas, and cream of mushroom soup, stir, put bread crumbs (and/or cheese)and ketchup on top, bake at 350 for a while.
    Serves as many as your bowl will hold. Note: don’t cook too long, the bowl gets hard to clean.

  50. Suzanne Temple says:

    Ikea Sweedish Meatballs
    this is supposedly the authentic recipe.

    My boys will eat ANYTHING with that cream sauce on it.

    1 egg
    1C crumbs
    1tsp brown sugar
    1 tsp salt
    1/4 tasp each of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves
    1/2 C milk
    1 lb ground meat

    Mix all ingredients. Roll into 1 inch balls. Fry in on inch of oil.

    Cream Sauce:
    1C beef stock
    1/2 C cream
    1/2 T soy
    11/2 T flour
    11/2 T water
    white pepper

    1. Swirl out pan w/beef stock
    2. Add cream
    3. Add flour mixed with water
    4. Add seasonings
    5. Simmer until thickened

    Serve over noodles or with fries. Enjoy! Good Luck!

  51. one last thing about this – if you get stuck – go to
    free service with weekly menus, recipes and grocery lists. doesn’t seem to be much open a can of soup stuff either….

  52. oops fingers don’t work this am

  53. Rach,
    I plan out my breakfasts, lunches and dinners at the beginning of every month. Come by and have a look if you want. I try to keep it simple.
    Heather V

  54. buy a freezer and batch cook.

    also, Join the yahoo group.

    It’s fantastic,


  55. Anonymous says:

    Hey guy! I just love Mrs. T's pierogies. I have no time to make my own so I buy them in the freezer section of the store. I use every kind and they are so versitile. My fav recipe is to heat them with a bit of olive oil, polish sausage, and onions to brown(once thawed)don't forget…salt & pepper. Top with warmed itialian stewed tomatoes and asparagus on the side, and top all that with shaved parmesan or asiago cheese. Make with it with marinated chicken of choice and crusty bread.