It wasn’t my husband asking; this time it was the clerk at the QFC market. “This all looks so healthy!” she said as she checked out the zucchini, scanned the boxes of mesclun and arugula. “Uh, well, I’m thinking about a salad,” I said, remembering a page of salad recipes I clipped from Real Simple.
Truth was, a salad probably wasn’t going to happen. It was nearly 5:30. I had to retrieve the boys from a nearby video game store, drive home, unload groceries and slam together dinner within the next hour before the evening Scout meeting. I was counting on a quick fish taco recipe with a tomato avocado salsa to count for veggies. By the time I arrived home I realized this would be one of those nights when mixes come in handy. I searched through the basket in the bottom of my pantry and lucked out with the Fish Taco mix from Simply Organic.
The mix ended up pulling double duty. I blended the mix with oil (not water as directed) and used half to marinate the cod for tacos. The other half was blended with a can of black beans, cup of corn, diced avocados and tomatoes. With the addition of lime juice and cilantro, the salad seemed far fancier than it was. The cod pieces were seared quickly in a cast iron skillet and held in the oven while I assembled the taco fixings: warm flour tortillas; sliced avocado; chopped lettuce and lime wedges. “Beautiful!” my husband said. Yes, he really said that. And the boys ate seconds (maybe thirds).
Not bad for a last-minute mix job!
Now that we’ve passed the 12-week mark on my commitment to maintain a weekly meal-plan for a year, it’s inevitable that some meals would begin to reappear.
For Tuesday’s dinner I was eager to recycle one recipe in particular from Week One: Sausage and White Bean Casserole. The combination of cannellini beans and swiss chard, baked with Italian sausages to flavor the pot, is fabulous. A time-saving stand-out from Real Simple’s easy recipe collection.
The guys “enjoyed” leftovers Wednesday while I headed to my monthly business dinner (creme brulee for dessert – my little secret now revealed). I ignored the meal plan on Thursday and dove into the freezer instead for a Costco lasagna. I was ready to hit the kitchen again by Friday.
Salsa Couscous Chicken
For an easy end-of week meal I retrieved the recipe often known as “Million-Dollar Chicken” because a Seattle woman won just that amount for her grand-prize winner in the 1998 Pillsbury Bake-off. (I’m still puzzled why a couscous recipe qualifies for a contest sponsored by a company known for baking products.) In any case Salsa Couscous Chicken is easy and kid-friendly. Not a drop left on the boys’ plates. It’s about time – I struck out with a few meals earlier this week
Filed under Favorites, Quick
The pressure cooker earned its stripes tonight.
Three minutes of sauteing and five minutes under pressure rolled up to a rewarding soup. It doesn’t sound too exciting, but the peasant cabbage and bean soup with kielbasa was delicious. And healthy. Low fat turkey kielbasa, cabbage, cannellini beans teamed with diced tomatoes, thyme, onion, celery, garlic and chicken broth. It all came together in a flash.
The time-savings was especially appreciated tonight: Son #1 headed out to a scout event and I was hosting a PTSA board meeting. This morning I decided to get a jump on the day and make a treat for the meeting while eating breakfast. I indulged in a recipe I’ve been craving ever since listening to A Homemade Life — Banana bread with chocolate and crystallized ginger.
Banana bread with chocolate and crystallized ginger
The good news is the banana bread is absolutely as wonderful as it sounds. The bad news is I work from a home office and that loaf was calling my name all morning. By lunchtime two slices were missing. Not a good trend. I wrapped up the rest of the bread but still managed to eat another half a slice during the evening meeting. This is why I rarely bake. I eat what I bake.
(If you decide to succumb to this evil treat, note the recipe on Molly’s blog has slightly different ingredients from the book version. At a glance I think the book version is probably better – more banana and butter and ginger, no walnuts.)
One of the ironies of having a meal plan is the freedom it offers to be flexible. Knowing in advance what you’re going to assemble for dinner on busy weeknights prevents headaches and hassles. It also seems the mere existence of a meal plan can inspire other ideas, depending on what’s stocked in the kitchen.
Tonight I had planned on caesar salad, one of the few salads my boys will eat, with grilled chicken for day 3 of the “while dad’s away” dinner plan. Then I stumbled upon a chickpea recipe on Orangette that was similar to the red cabbage salad — both dressed with just lemon juice, olive oil and Parmesan cheese. Thanks to leftover cabbage salad and the five minutes it took to mix up the chickpeas, we ended up with three salads for dinner. Plus grilled chicken apple sausages, another switcheroo.
The change in plans moved me closer to one of my New Year’s resolutions: salads and veggies occupying two-thirds of my dinner plate. Tonight’s proportions were closer to three-quarters: a chicken apple sausage was lost among the helpings of caesar salad, red cabbage salad and chickpeas.
A friend of mine is a dietitian so she always has lots of ideas about what we can (or shouldn’t) eat. She talks about the “mental cookbook,” that little collection of recipes that sits in your brain. They’re the Old Faithfuls, the recipes you reach for on a regular basis because a) you want an easy night in the kitchen and/or b) you love them. Like Broccoli rabe with sausage and pasta.
I love this recipe. I clipped the recipe out of a magazine long ago so I have no idea of its source. It turns out there are many variations on the Web. The New York Times suggests spaghetti (I like penne). Rachel Ray doubles up the greens and skips the sausage (my boys would hate that). Eating Well also omits the sausage but adds beans. I love sneaking beans into any dish.
I usually try something a little different every time I make broccoli rabe and pasta. On Thursday night, I used whole grain penne and added a can of cannellini beans. Bring on the fiber! The guys didn’t complain but there was the quiet question: “is this whole grain pasta?” so we have more leftovers than usual.
Here’s a Real Simple recipe that comes closest to my version of Broccoli rabe with sausage – without all the extra fiber 🙂
Filed under Favorites, Quick
This week marked the first time I’ve done a complete meal plan in a long time. We’re nearly through the week and it has gone fairly well. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday – right on schedule and delish. Last night I burned out. Opted for frozen pizza and was so scattered I left the cardboard on it while baking. It was still edible. And the caesar salad was a nice distraction.
Before I forget, the plan came through:
Tuesday: Sauteed chicken with spinach and mushrooms; polenta with goat cheese and rosemary. (The polenta was a challenge to meet the 30-min prep test. Thankfully the M-man pitched in to chop the mushrooms and stir the polenta while I threw everything else together. Fresh spinach is wonderful but always a pain.)
Tonight (Thursday): Italian Sausage casserole with White Beans and Chard; applesauce. Simple and tasty.
At this point I’m not sure we’ll stick to the plan. I’m usually looking for an excuse to avoid the kitchen on Friday nights.