Stretchy Meals (How Many Meals Can I Get Out of One Recipe)


As I stand and stare resolutely at my grocery list, there – nestled among the regulars, i.e. milk, eggs, bread…sits the rather esoteric and somewhat vague item…”dinner”. That’s it. Dinner. No details, no elaborations…just, “dinner”. I have to take, what I like to call, my “thinking-trip” to the market. What that translates to is, my “I-don’t-know-what-to-cook,-so-I-need-to-go-to-the-market-and-stare,-and-hope-that-I-become-inspired-by-something-I-see” trip. Sometimes, when I am in this mode, unsuspecting friends might give me a call, just to say hello. Much to their chagrin…I pounce on them…”What are you making for dinner!? I don’t know what to cook. Inspire me!” They usually stutter and sputter along for a moment or two, disoriented by my unnatural segue from their question of “Hi, how are you?” and my answering with a desperate question about their dinner plans. Recently I did this to my friend, Victoria. Knowing me well, she bounced back, unfazed and without missing a beat said, “I’m fixing steaks”! Oooooh, that sounds good…(I am easily swayed hen I am desperate).

Steaks are good. The problem with them is that they are a one-shot meal usually. That, and I just don’t make them very often due to the whole reduction of red meat in my diet, and frankly, they are expensive. If I am going to shell out some bucks for a splurgy meal – I need to get a couple meals out of it! My weekly “dinner” list is still a skosh shy of being complete. I am looking for that magical meal that could translate into multiple meals. I call them, “Stretchy Meals”. Not only do they stretch a dollar – they stretch your imagination! It’s a bit like food Scrabble. How many meals can I make out of this…fill in the blank.

Becky’s Pork Butt & Beer is one of the first Stretchy Meals submitted to this project…I will post that recipe next!

The Daily Grind (And We’re Not Talkin’ Coffee)

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“What’s for dinner?”…three of the scariest and most dreaded words in the dictionary. They’re not so bad individually, but all strung together like that…it’s enough to create goose flesh! Seems like a simple enough question, rather innocuous in fact. However, the phrase creeps in quietly, insidiously…every day…7 days a week, 365 days a year! After a few years, what was once merely a simple question, has now become a mind-numbingly, challenging, daily test…every day (hence my use of the term “daily”). It’s not the cooking itself that causes me to start hyperventilating, it’s the planning – okay, it’s the planning and the shopping. Okay, it’s the planning, and the shopping, and the “trying-to-please-everyone”, the “making-it-healthy” and “tasty”, that makes my head spin!

Number one, you must let go of the “trying-to-please-everyone” rule (admittedly self-imposed). Never. Going. To. Happen. If you get better than 50%, you’re doing well! Number two, “healthy” and “tasty” don’t always go hand-in-hand. Unfortunately, more often than not, “tasty” is attached to rather unhealthy foods! (i.e.. cake, brie, crusty bread…etc.) Don’t get me wrong, healthy can be tasty – it just takes a bit more time and planning. A paradigm shift, if you will, as to what is tasty – but I digress. Truly, the hardest part for me is, thinking up what to cook. If someone would just tell me what to cook, I would happily shop for it, cook it, and serve it up!

All of this information circles back to my “Go-To” meals that I keep in my arsenal of mom-superpowers. I can think, literally, of only three meals that I use (overuse, might be more accurate) almost weekly. I assume that my friends most likely do the same. I could be wrong, but I assume anyhow. So, my thinking was, if I canvased my immediate group of moms, and asked them to give me their three “Go-To” meals…then I would have, potentially 18 or more “Go-To” meals! A veritable hotbed of culinary ammunition! This could make the daily grind of mealtime a breeze! If we pool our mom-superpowers…we could end household drudgery as we know it! I figured, I could print these up and pass them out to said group of moms – my ulterior motive – another excuse for us all to get together around some food, and quite possibly, some alcohol! (Quite possibly!)

This idea has expanded to friends, family, and any random stranger who has the misfortune of mentioning they have a really simple recipe! I’ve tried to casually interview my subjects about their recipes – and their quotes and “Go-To” recipes will be sprinkled throughout the blog. Happy reading and eating!

A “Go-To” Recipe From My Sister-In-Law


“This sounds like a fun project. I am sending you a lentil soup recipe that I make about once every two weeks. It is very healthy and tasty and everyone in my family, with all their special diets, can eat it. I originally got it out of a French cookbook for the Provence region about 25 years ago, and have made some of my own adjustments to it over time. The best thing about it is you can serve it with melted cheese or croutons on top and /or serve it with some crusty French bread or cornbread, or it’s great with a cheese quesadilla too! I never look at the recipe now…I’m not sure I could even find it…I just make it from memory.”

Carmen’s Lentil Soup for Six


  • 2 cups raw lentils
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Medium yellow onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cups water
  • salt
  • pepper (freshly ground)


Step 1
Wash lentils in cold water
Step 2
Heat the oil in a heavy pot and cook the chopped onion until soft
Step 3
Add the tomatoes, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, salt & pepper, and lentils
Step 4
Add water and bring to a boil
Step 5
Cover and simmer 1 - 2 hours
Step 6
Cooking time will depend on the size of the lentils (I usually use the green lentils). The lentils should be tender & not mushy. Remove the bay leaves before serving. Enjoy!

And Then There Were Recipes (And It Was Good)


The Family Table, whether a formal dining room table, a kitchen banquette, the family room coffee table, or a meal on the center console of your minivan (amidst activities – not that would ever do that…unless I had to on Tuesdays and Thursdays) comes in many forms. We all need to eat, and we gather around food. The Family Table, it’s where we eat, where we meet, where we plan, communicate, and schedule. The sharing of food is an age-old symbol of caring. A basic human connection that transcends all barriers and is the perfect gift for all occasions. It can be served with pragmatism or love, embarrassment or accomplishment, health or comfort, indulgence or calorie consciousness, for those of us who may have put on a pound or two since high school (or 20). Throw into this mix the other predicament most of us share, a lack of time.

I have three children with three diametrically opposed culinary palates. My eldest son, a rail-thin carnivore, enjoys a fairly wide variety of foods, very few of which are the quick and easy type of food to prepare. My middle son is very tactile oriented and takes “picky eater” to a whole new level…the six things that he will eat not only have to taste right, but must also feel right! Were you aware that meat feels “fluffy” and therefore is on the NPL list (Never Pass Lips) pronounced “nipple” in my boy-humor fueled household? My daughter, the youngest, is very mercurial in her eating habits. She gets on kicks…suddenly can’t get enough of something for days on end, but just as suddenly, is done with it. What was a favorite last week could very well be on the NPL list this week. The trick is – I have to figure out these food mood swings with a crystal ball. I have to admit, my crystal ball skills are dead on arrival. When I offer said daughter something that was a favorite only moments before, she looks at me like she can’t believe the dregs of humanity she must deal with…and with an exaggerated sigh must explain to me how far off base I am…again. My husband emphasizes healthy and tasty! Sound familiar?

With limited success, I take these various desires to heart when preparing a meal…it is a neat trick indeed to come up with something that pleases my family’s diverse tastes: a high wire act with multiple and divergent wish lists, leaving me paralyzed with indecision. And so, I revert to one of my “Go-To” meals – a meal that with very few modifications and accommodations can fit everyone’s cravings. I have about three of these recipes. I use them over and over…and over. Initially, I queried my friends regarding their “go-to” meals as a way to gather more recipes to add to my short list! However, the more I ruminated on the subject of food and how it relates to my life and my family, the topic expanded to my relationship with food and friends, and food and life, and food being a recurring theme of conversation with my friends, and the myriad life events where we break bread and share food and our stories…the more I realized that these stories and recipes need to be shared. And so – this blog is born – a sharing of life and food.