Tag Archives: weeknight dinner

Dinner in a Pot

17 Sep

This is the story of an easy, savory, nutritious one pot dinner. Why one pot? A simple reason: it was a busy weeknight and I did not want a lot of dishes. Keeping a well stocked pantry and freezer is key to quick easy meals. I also like to keep fresh produce on hand so I can pull meals together without those pesky after work visits to the grocery store.

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For this dinner, I started out with broccoli and cauliflower in a bowl. Then I tossed it with some olive oil, salt and pepper. I put it on a parchement lined baking sheet (remember…few dishes!) and roasted that for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.

Then I put some sweet little cherry and grape tomatoes into a pot, again with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. I then let that simmer a bit. These cook down to a creamy delight. I also added a clove of chopped garlic.

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As that was simmering, I chopped up some fresh spinach and arugula. When the tomatoes were thick and bubbly, I added the greens. I like to mix arugula into my spinach because of the sharp peppery flavor it adds. I gave all of that a good stir.

Now dinner was really smelling delicious. Savory fragrance was wafting through the house, and I was getting really hungry! I took the veggies out of the oven when they were a little brown on the edges, and let them rest not the counter (on a hot pad) for a few minutes. Next it was time to add the pasta.

Angel hair pasta was going to be my pasta of choice because of its short cook time. I wrapped the pasta up in a clean dish towel, then ran the towel over the edge of the counter. This broke the pasta up efficiently and neatly.

Then I added chicken broth to the tomato mixture. After that, in went the pasta. It was that simple. Again, a couple of quick stirs and I let this cook on medium heat. I then went to  pour a glass of wine to accompany this delicious dinner.

When the pasta was al dente (firm to the bite) I was ready to complete the meal. I added the roasted vegetables along with shrimp as the protein. The shrimp was raw, and it only took about 3 minutes for them to cook-any longer and they would become rubbery.

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And Voila! Dinner was ready. It was a complete meal in a bowl. I grated some fresh parmesan cheese on top, grabbed my glass of wine, and enjoyed a healthy weeknight meal. And my one pot meal left me with very few after dinner dishes.

This meal is customizable. Don’t like cauliflower? Try zucchini. Shrimp isn’t your thing? Add some leftover cooked chicken. Want a more robust flavor? Add red pepper flakes and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Want a vegetarian meal? Use vegetable broth and leave out the shrimp. Craving an italian twist? Toss in some fresh parsley and basil. The possibilities are endless-but the after dinner dishes aren’t!

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Snap

13 Jun

Want dinner in a snap?  I think it is possible to put a healthy dinner on the table in less time than going to the drive thru.  Yes, a healthy dinner can be on the table in about half an hour.  With planning.

Sure it takes planning.  But that can be done while standing in line, waiting for a dentist appointment, or waking up with that morning cup of coffee.  It can be as simple as jotting down notes.  I use my smart phone to make my grocery list, and that advance planning helps me get through the store in a snap.

Sometimes planning is just a simple trip to the freezer to pull something out in the morning to cook in the evening.  Let me tell you how simple planning helped me with a healthy home cooked meal last week.

In the morning, I pulled some chicken out of the freezer and popped in the fridge.  By the time I came home from work, the chicken was thawed.  I fired up the grill, lightly seasoned the chicken, ans tossed it on the grill to cook.  The chicken breasts were thinly cut, so I knew they would cook quickly.

In the meantime, I put a pot of water on the stove for some pasta.  Angel hair pasta cooks quickly, so I pulled that from the pantry. It would be perfect with the leftover pasta sauce in the fridge  I took some frozen asparagus from the freezer, and thought it would round out dinner nicely.

The pasta cooked in about 5 minutes.  I also tossed frozen peas (I warmed them with the sauce) into the pasta for a little color. The chicken was done in about 20 minutes.  I let it rest for a few minutes, then sliced the breasts thin.  (Culinary side note:  meat is more tender when allowed to rest.  I time my proteins to be done 10 minutes before everything else.  I then drizzle olive oil over the meat, cover with foil, and let rest). The asparagus went into the microwave.

With a little planning, I had a healthy dinner on the table on a weeknight in about 30 minutes.  what can you make with little time on a weeknight?

Dinner in a snap.  Grilled chicken, angel hair pasta with cheese pea sauce, and asparagus.  YUM!

Dinner in a snap. Grilled chicken, angel hair pasta with cheese pea sauce, and asparagus. YUM!

Bland Beige

22 Mar

I love to cook.  But its hard to hit it out of the ballpark every time you go to bat.  I’ve had some famous flops.  A fallen cake.  A kale fail.  A burnt grilled chicken.  Even with my resources, a well stocked pantry, and a fridge and freezer with great leftovers, I blow it.  The other night was once such miss.

I think about a lot of things when composing a meal.  When meal planning, I consider nutrition content, leftover potential, budget, who will be at the table, and what the meal will look like on the plate. No one wants to eat something looking like dog mush, even if the flavor is fantastic.  But I had come home from work late and in a rush to get a good meal on the table.  Into the oven went some lightly seasoned chicken to bake.  It would be ready in about half hour.  Out came some leftovers to round out the meal.

Being busy and distracted, I didn’t go through my typical due diligence getting a meal onto the table.  What leftovers did I pull out to accompany the chicken?  Mashed potatoes, creamy mushroom sauce (perfect to jazz up the baked chicken) and roasted cauliflower.  Sounds good, right?  But put it on a plate, a beige plate at that, and its flat.  No panache or pizzaz.

I will show it to you, but promise not to laugh.  Like I said, everyone misses now and again.  What have your misses been?

My beige dinner.  Delicious but blah.  Especially on a beige dinner plate.

My beige dinner. Delicious but blah. Especially on a beige dinner plate.

 

Be Flexible

1 Mar

I like options.  I like flexibility.  Especially with cooking.  I am a busy mom.  I can’t afford to fiddle fart around during the busy work/school week, and don’t want to get locked into one option.  I am going to cook one thing that will last more than one meal, and that can be used in a number of ways.

Brown some ground italian sausage.  Yum!

Brown some ground italian sausage. Yum!

That said, this is what I made on a busy week night.  I started by browning a pound of italian sausage.  Next, I added some freshly chopped peppers.  I happened to have fresh peppers that I quickly chopped, but listen…you don’t have to take the time to cut peppers yourself.  Nicely cut peppers and onions are available in the produce section of the grocers.  Don’t let the label “fajita mix” fool you.  Those peppers are not seasoned yet, so if you want to throw them into a pot of browned italian sausage, you go right ahead.

Stir in some freshly chopped peppers. Layer those flavors!

Stir in some freshly chopped peppers. Layer those flavors!

So after my sausage was brown, I drained most of the fat, leaving about 1 tablespoon.  I tossed the peppers into the pot and stirred the mixture around.  That cooked for about 5 minutes, then I tossed in a can of diced tomatoes, parsley, basil, and some red pepper flakes.  I gave that a good stir.  Then I added a dash of salt and sugar.

 

Add these simple ingredients.

Add these simple ingredients.

But hey, did I mention I am busy just like you?  I don’t have time to sit in the kitchen and stir my sauce.  So into the oven it went.  I wanted it to simmer, and the oven is the perfect spot for that.  Side note.  Invest in a pot that can go from the stove top to the oven.  It will save you loads of time, and after all, time is money.

That sauce bubbled in the oven for about an hour.  Man oh man did the house smell great.  I pulled it out, removed the lid, gave it a good stir, and was pretty hungry for dinner.

Now what?  Did I mention that I like options?   Here is the beauty of this sauce.  It had protein and vegetables in it, so it was an “all in one” as far as that goes.  I did not need to make a separate vegetable.  We can go a couple of ways with this dish, depending on what is in the pantry.

We could:

1. Toss this with pasta-even throwing in a handful of spinach if available

2. Use as a pizza topping

3. Make pepper and sausage sandwiches

4. Load onto a baked potato

5. Make a quesadilla

How about that?  Love those options!  And the leftovers were divine.  Now that’s flexibility for you!

 

Quinn and I made open face sanwiches that night.  They were delicious.

Quinn and I made open face sandwiches that night. They were delicious.

Crock pot tacos

15 Oct

I have been of the mindset that crock pot meals are:

a) SO 70’s, and not in a good way

b) SO boring

c)  SO bland, like beige food

d) decidedly and completely unsexy food

In other words, no F-U-N!

But…..I was short on time the other morning (as usual), and wanted to get a fairly decent meal on the table for my family that night.  So I took a minute before leaving for work and grabbed a couple of things to toss into the (time for true confessions…) crock pot.  My intention was to have flavorful and somewhat healthy tacos by suppertime.  So this is what i tossed into the crock pot:

4 frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 can corn, drained

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can diced tomatoes, with juice

1 can diced green chilis

4 ounces salsa

4 ounces salsa verde (green salsa)

1 envelope of low sodium taco seasoning

1 T. chili powder

1 T. cumin

salt and pepper to taste (you can always adjust this upward, so be conservative to begin with)

I put the chicken in the bottom, then just dumped everything else on top.  I was in a hurry,  the chicken breasts were individual, not in a big block, but still frozen solid.  The seasonings went on the top.  I didn’t even stir it.  I just threw it together, covered the crock pot, turned it on and ran out the door.

When I came home in the late afternoon, I opened the lid of the crock pot and gave the mixture a good stir.  I used two forks to shred the chicken while it was still in the crock pot, which was so tender it easily broke apart.  I had a quick taste, adjusted my seasonings a bit, then put the lid back on.

When dinner time came, I made some spanish rice, shredded some lettuce and cheese, pulled the tortillas out, and dinner was served!  The tacos were kind of an all in one because of the vegetables  added to the mixture.  The dinner was nutritious and relatively low in fat.

This recipe really stretched my ingredients so it was budget friendly, and it served a crowd.  It was an easy weeknight dinner.  True it wasn’t sexy, but it wasn’t boring either.  With all of the added vegetables, it was colorful, flavorful, and quite satisfying.  What will you add to your crock pot tacos?