Although you may be a skilled cook, you may still have some trouble coming up with creative recipes to keep you and your significant other’s palate from getting bored.

In my opinion, a good dinner always has five parts: carbohydrates, protein, plants, a good drink, and of course, a sweet ending. One easy way to create your own recipe for two and to keep it from getting boring is to mix and match those different components of a meal. Try changing up two or three things every meal to keep your significant other satisfied and curious about the next night’s dinner.

The carbs

A good, filling, homecooked meal definitely needs to have something filled with energy-rich carbohydrates as its foundation. Some of my favorites are sweet potatoes or yams, quinoa, or some type of pasta. Depending on the time you have, you can vary the cooking methods or the type of carb you will have in your meal. Broiling may take a while, but steaming something is quick.

For nights in which you or your significant other gets a bit behind schedule, cannot start cooking until late evening and are short on time, pasta, such as angel-hair or boiled potatoes are good options. Those typically take less than twenty minutes to fully cook and require little to no prep time.

If you know you will have to reheat the food for your significant other, stay away from foods that do not do so well when reheated a second time, such as bread, which may tend to dry out or turn too chewy, or quinoa, which tends to turn very mushy and soft.

The protein

Another fun part of making your own recipe is choosing the protein. While either the protein or the carbohydrate can be the start of the dinner, it is important to make sure the carbohydrate and the protein complement each other in taste. Your protein can be a meat or a legume – you do not have to limit yourself.

This does not always have to be in a solid “food” form. For example, if you are having pasta, this can be in the form of a meat sauce. If you have some bread, this can come in some sort of melted cheese dip.

If garlic bread is on the table, then it can easily be paired with a nicely seasoned cut of beef. Spaghetti and meatballs, rice and beans, and chicken noodle soup are some more classic combinations for your carb and protein.

The plants

What adult recipe would be complete without some sort of mentions about vegetables? While most of us think of leafy greens when coming up with a plant component for our recipes, do not forget about the wide variety of fruits, legumes, and nuts we have in the supermarkets.

Roasted apples with brown sugar and caramelized onions pair very well with pork chops. Coconut, limes, and mangos pair well with hot dishes to help mellow out the spiciness a bit. Tart cherries and plantains are also a good addition to many savory dishes and meats, such as those with ground beef, or grilled tofu.

The drink

Depending on the time you have, this can range from a nice broth to a shaken martini with a simple glass of sparkling grape juice. If you are having a heavy, more rich meal, such as a tenderloin steak or some chicken parmesan, try a lighter, crisper drink, such as a nice glass of medium-bodied red wine like a light Merlot or Pinot Noir, crisp white wines, or even just some sparkling Prosecco.

If you have something like a salad or seafood that is less rich, full-bodied white wines like, White Rioja, White Burgundy, and White Pinot Noir complement it wonderfully.

The dessert

Dessert does not always have to be unhealthy or take a long time. When I was growing up, my parents would often just have a handful of frozen grapes or blueberries as dessert, while my siblings and I would have our animal crackers or orange slices. Of course, depending on the occasion, you can choose to indulge in something more decadent or save up your calories for another meal.

The best thing about being about not having set recipes and always being able to change up certain parts of your meal is that you can accommodate a lot of things into your dinner. If you or your significant other has a food allergy, that can easily be replaced with other ingredients.

If you are short on time or have a few hours to spend, you can alter your protein choice or dessert. Not every night has to be steak night with rich red wine, but not every night has to be a grilled cheese with tomato soup kind of night. Variety is the spice of life!

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