Everybody eats: Search for clever dinner options

Cooking is always an adventure, but in the days leading up to a vacation, preparing meals becomes more of a quest.

If you’re like me, you don’t want to go out to eat before a vacation — you’ll be doing that soon enough — and you don’t want to make a big grocery trip before leaving your house. The only thing left to do is to use the food you have on hand for the next few days.

At first, it’s easy. I consider the week or so before a vacation a great time to clean out the refrigerator and pare down the canned goods in the pantry. But as the countdown to the getaway nears, the items that can be combined for a delicious dinner dwindle.

It turns out you can get tired of breakfast foods for dinner.

I love cooking websites like or where you plug in the ingredients you have on hand and the site provides a list of recipes that feature those components. I took stock of the main items I had on hand, sat at the computer with a notebook, and plugged them in the search bar.

Scrolling through the list of suggested recipes, I rejected those I knew my kids wouldn’t try or required additional ingredients I didn’t have, and still ended up with enough options to make two lunches and three dinners without having to buy anything new at the grocery store besides milk.

We always need milk at our house.

Even better, I discovered a new recipe that both my husband and I love. It’s not something I would have chosen to make on my own, but now that we’ve had it, it may become my newest go-to summer dinner.


Serves 6

•1/3 cup olive oil

•2 tablespoons lime juice

•2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

•1 to 1/2 teaspoons sugar

•1 garlic clove, minced

•1/2 teaspoon chili powder

•1/2 teaspoon salt, optional

•1/4 teaspoon pepper

•1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained

•1 can (11 ounces) Mexicorn, drained

•1 medium sweet red pepper, julienne

•1/3 cup sliced scallions

•6 cups torn romaine

•1 to 1/2 cups cooked chicken strips

•Additional cilantro, optional

In a small bowl, whisk the first eight ingredients; set aside.

In a large bowl, toss the beans, corn, red pepper and onions; set aside.

Arrange romaine on individual plates; top with bean mixture and chicken. Drizzle with dressing; garnish with cilantro if desired.

Source: “Taste of Home Best Loved Recipes: 1485 Favorites from the World’s #1 Food & Entertaining Magazine” by Taste of Home (Readers Digest; Sept. 13, 2012)

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