A Ten Minute Dinner: Chicken Breast, Green Beans, and a Baguette
I recently ran into a friend in the grocery store. She works full time and has three children on the sports circuit. We were bemoaning our busy over-scheduled days and rushed evenings. She waved her hand at the prepared food section and said, Waverly, this is my peace and love in the kitchen. Indeed.
There are many days when for one reason or another, parents can’t get home until the dinner hour. When you burst through the door with backpacks, sports equipment, instruments, and what-not, inevitably everyone is starving. You have a short window of time to get a meal on the table before a meltdown. It may be your own.
Resist the temptation (most of the time) to take out, drive through, or have dinner delivered. All you need is a few tricks up your sleeve to cook something delicious and healthy. You can do it in about ten minutes. Compared to what you can buy ready-made, your homemade dinner is quicker, cheaper, and much healthier.
DINNER: PROTEIN + GRAIN + VEGETABLES + THE THREE BOWLS
This is dinner every night, but on hectic nights, stick with quick-cooking food. Here is your list of must-haves:
- PROTEIN: Thin-cuts of meat can be broiled or sauteed in less than 10 minutes. Buy chicken breasts or thighs and pound them to an even thickness before cooking. For fish, look for thin white fillets, shrimp, and scallops. In the meat department, buy thin cuts of chops and steak. Buy tenderloins and slice them into thin medallions. Form ground meat, chicken, or fish into patties for burgers. To save time, cut, pound, or shape your meat the day you buy it. When you walk in the door, it will be in the refrigerator ready to cook. A quick pan sauce or store bought pico de gallo, salsa verde, tzatziki or other sauce will make your meat delicious.
- GRAINS: If you can, plan ahead. On Sunday, cook a few day’s supply of rice or plain pasta (drizzle with olive oil to prevent sticking). Just heat up nightly portions in the microwave. Otherwise, stick with quick-cooking grains like quinoa and couscous. Be sure to boil your water the minute you walk in the door. Another useful trick is to freeze rolls, tortillas, flat bread, and baguettes the day you buy them. Thaw them in the microwave and then, if you like, toast to crisp.
- VEGETABLES: In a covered dish with a little water, many vegetables microwave to crisp-tender beautifully. It takes about 3 minutes. Drain and drizzle them with extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and then season with salt and pepper. Broccoli, green beans, asparagus, peas, cauliflower, and corn do very well. Greens like spinach, kale, and chard can be sauteed in a hot skillet with garlic and olive oil in 2-8 minutes.
- THE THREE BOWLS: Fruit, raw vegetables (with dip if you like), and a mixed green salad should be served each night with dinner. It gives everyone options and encourages eating more fruits and vegetables. Prep the fruit and vegetable bowl the day you shop. Replenish it during the week. Use pre washed salad greens and your own vinaigrette. The 3 bowls can be done and on the table in 2 minutes.
These ideas should help you on those inevitable evenings when you are hard-pressed. There will be more details next week. Until then, buy some thin meat, a nice sauce or relish, a head of fresh broccoli, and a few baguettes. Cook dinner one night: give it a try. While you are at it, think of ways the children can pitch in. Family dinner is a team effort, and, anyway, life is better when you eat together.
Peace and love from my kitchen to yours,