Kitchen Recovery: When Dinner Doesn’t Go According To Plan

Edamame HummusWe’ve all been there.  You’re all set for dinner, and then things don’t go accordingly to plan.   This week we’re sharing 9 ideas for making dinner a success, even when hiccups occur along the way.

1) Taking Too Long To Cook
The family’s hungry and dinner STILL isn’t ready.  Rather than stringing everyone along with snacks or promises of just 5 more minutes, go to Plan B.   Be prepared with our Edamame Hummus (above) as a quick save.  Just add carrot sticks and a glass of milk, and you have all the nutritional bases covered, not to mention a fun dip & dine dinner.  Let whatever’s cooking finish up while you’re eating.  Now you’ve got dinner set for tomorrow night, too.

2) Missing A Crucial Ingredient
Your dinner hinges on one ingredient you just KNOW you have, but when it’s time to cook it’s not there.   Embrace the challenge and turn the dinner 90 degrees and make it something else.  Making pasta and find out you’re out of pasta? Serve that delicious sauce over rice.  Planning a meal of sweet potato chili and don’t have sweet potatoes?  How about using frozen corn and black beans, instead?  Or missing the curry powder?  Try making it an Italian-flavored soup with oregano and basil, instead.

3) Extra Mouths To Feed
A full dinner table is wonderful, except when you’re not sure you have enough food.  Try bulking up your sides to make a meal of hearty sides.  How about adding hard boiled eggs to this week’s currant and cauliflower “rice” salad  or serving the creole bean salad over couscous?

4) Over Simmered
Ever set the timer while something’s simmering, and come back to find all the liquid has cooked away?  The easy fix is to add liquid, like water or vegetable stock to get it back to the consistency you want.  If the vegetables have softened too much, though, and the meal just won’t be the same, change course.  Turn that sauce into a dip and serve with veggies and bread.  Or call it a pesto and expect it to cling to the pasta or grain.  Remember, a plan is a plan.  If what you’ve cooked isn’t cooperating, come up with a new one!

5) Made Too Much
We all know about freezing leftovers or packing them up for lunch tomorrow, but how about reimagining them? Have leftovers of this week’s Mexican Stuffed Peppers?  Chop them up and make a tortilla soup with some crushed tomatoes, vegetable stop and crushed tortillas.   Or have extra Pasta E Patate?  Chop it up and use as a delicious frittata filling.  Now you have 2 meals in just about the same time as one.

6) Freezer Fatigue
You’ve been a conscientious cook and frozen your leftover for another day, but when it’s time to dig into that delicious casserole from last month you find it didn’t defrost the way you had remembered..  Never fear.   Freezing is notorious for stealing that crunch that makes meals taste balanced and complete.  So add it back in by melting  a layer of cheese on top, or sprinkling some panko in or even serving over something crunchy, like crispy noodles, fresh veggies or tortilla chips.

7) The Kids Rebel
Even the best eaters don’t always go along with our plans for dinner.  Be prepared to serve their meal as a composed plate or putting a familiar spin on a meal.  If they’re skeptical of the sweet potatoes risotto you have planned, serve their rice and sweet potatoes separately instead of mixed together.   Planning broccoli with udon?  Keep their broccoli, tofu and udon all separate and let them add the sauce to taste.

8) Spur-Of-The-Moment Take Out
No matter what you have planned, sometimes your favorite sushi rolls are just what you’re craving.  So what about that meal you had planned?  Cook it anyway when you have the time.  If everything’s pre-chopped, get it going while you’re washing dishes or the kids are brushing their teeth.  You’ll have a leg up on dinner tomorrow night, or the components for another meal.   If you’re not going to eat that broccoli tahini bowl you had planned, cook the ingredients separately then add the cooked broccoli to a salad, serve the couscous with olive oil for a side and use the tahini as a dip for veggies.

9) Not What You Had In Mind
We all know we should taste a meal before we serve it.  And what happens when it’s not exactly what you had in mind? Be prepared to re-think it.   Did that casserole turn out too salty?  Dilute it with crushed tomatoes and broth and call it a stew.   Is that sauce lacking a certain zing?  Decide whether it wants more acid, something sweet or a little spice and it in.  Change up the meal before it hits the table and make it something you love.

Home cooking is about the journey.  Start with a plan, but be prepared to change course when things don’t go quite the way you had in mind.  You’ll be rewarded with delicious discoveries!


Leave a Comment