“I don’t know how you bare your soul like that every week,” my friend and fellow blogger Tim McNally emailed me last week.

And I thought about it, and I don’t really know. Part of it is that I am just an oversharer by nature; it’s how I was raised, and no one in my family has much in the way of either secrets or shame. Part of it is that after surviving the awkward Perm and Braces Years between 1990 and 1997, I just don’t embarrass all that easily. Part of it is that – as anyone who has ever met me at a party can attest – I often talk without thinking, so writing is a relief to me; even if I bare my soul, I do it with words that I actually carefully consider instead of words that just fall, unbidden, out of my mouth. And a big part of it, honestly, is that I just have a lot of material.

When I was in journalism school, we all had to work a semester on the newspaper, the Columbia Missourian. I did my shift over the summer of 2000. There was a hotshot reporter in the class, and he wanted to work the crime beat. Now the crime beat is certainly more exciting than the education beat, which I worked, but even still, in a sleepy college town in the dead of summer, there just isn’t much happening – except that suddenly and very unexpectedly, there were, like, three murders in a 10-day span. And of course, being extremely competitive budding reporters with dark senses of humor, we all good-naturedly joked that Jon was killing people off for the bylines. Sometimes I feel like that, like I’ve just had this ridiculous rash of personal tragedies that I’ve turned into blog fodder.

But you know, not today. Today – for a change – I just don’t want to talk about the loss of my loved ones or my parenting screw-ups or the bittersweetness of my daughter growing up or all of the alcoholics in my family or any of the other shit I normally talk about.

Today, I want to talk about a really wholesome Betty Crocker-type subject and pretend – just for today – that my biggest concern really is how to fix a quick and healthy weeknight meal. I love to cook, but so much of what I make is more suited to weekends, when I have time to roast a chicken or chop a ton of vegetables for minestrone – and I don’t have a hungry 4-year-old clamoring for me to go preside over a My Little Pony wedding or outline her in chalk on the sidewalk. I have vowed before that I’m going to stop feeding Ruby so many convenience foods, and I’ve done a good job of it, I think. But she and I both get bored with chili and spaghetti and chicken-and-noodles and canned-soup casseroles other simple Midwestern suppers. I’ve seen a lot of similar posts all over the Web lately, with the flurry of back-to-school routines, but I got inspired by this recent article we ran in Louisiana Life about fast Louisiana meals to see if anyone out there has some time-saving tips for something that I couldn’t have made in Missouri. (And no, Rachael Ray’s appalling 30-minute gumbo doesn’t count. You cannot make gumbo without a roux, and you cannot make a roux in two minutes. Period.)

Anyone?