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Sherrel Jones: Dinner Inspiration Just Down the Aisle

Sherrel Jones writes about dinner inspiration in winter.
BY SHERREL JONES Published: January 16, 2013

What to have for dinner tonight? It's a proverbial question those of us who cook or those who love food ask ourselves often.

Readers frequently ask, “How do you think of all that stuff?”

Most of the time, it's something in the freezer or fridge that needs to be used. Other times, it's a craving, but often it's inspiration of fresh, seasonal ingredients.

I was not particularly inspired this week as I headed back to Enid knowing I was on my own for dinner. All one needs these days is to step inside one of our special grocers for some dinner therapy. I made a stop at Whole Foods where it is all too easy to be inspired about what to have for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

I also didn't mention that with my grown children living in New York, Dallas and San Francisco, we are in a sort of food challenge: post-holiday healthy fitness drop the sugar (and most everything that converts to sugar) program. We text, tweet, email and photo our trials and temptations along the way. We are making progress, but it doesn't exactly make that what to have for dinner question go away.

Back to the Whole Foods meat case: Sausage caught my eye: Chicken mixed with sun-dried tomatoes and basil and those generous links were on sale. I bought 3 for $4.99. Not super cheap, but I knew one link would more that satisfy my appetite, it would cook quickly and the dinner question could be put to rest. I'm not saying you have to stop at Whole Foods, but our new markets and several of those that have made wonderful improvements within the last year carry a lovely selection of sausages now.

Having fresh kale, red cabbage and onions would be awesome with it. Most all of our local markets have great seasonal deals on cruciferous vegetables now. That is another means of inspiration: Shopping seasonally affords us a great advantage when it comes to planning menus and finding a bargain. Great timing for post-holidays budget.

When I got home, there was a much-needing-to-be-used yellow bell pepper in my fridge. (I bought it as a market special over a week ago.) No choice there, I would toss it in with the veggies I cooked with the sausage. Originally, I thought about cooking some lentils to go alongside the sausage, but by the time I drove to Enid from Oklahoma City, I just didn't want to wait.

If you've ever cooked those large links, you may already understand how to go about cooking them. These are made of raw chicken, so it is important to cook them thoroughly no matter what method you use.

A meat thermometer is handy for checking the internal temperature of the sausage link. I decided to lightly brown mine whole in a little olive oil while I prepped the vegetables. A medium-size skillet would leave plenty of room for veggies.

There are so many vegetables to choose from to accompany sausage links: Kale, cabbages of all kinds, onions always, sliced potatoes and or carrots, peppers, all kinds of squash, along with a variety of legumes such as lentils or beans. Canned ones cook faster, but dried ones are wonderful and less expensive if you have the time to cook them. I include vegetables alongside the links starting with the ones that take the longest to cook.

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