Cure for the Common Thursday

October 7th, 2010 · 13 Comments · Dinner, Organizing, Strategizing, Planning, Quick, Vegetarian

Do you guys suffer from Thursday Syndrome like I do? Symptoms include dry refrigerator, a shriveled vegetable supply, and feelings of guilt-fueled resistance to ordering in or going out. (That’s what Friday is for, you weakling!) Lucky for all of us there is a cure, and it involves a combination of the six magical grocery items below, all of which you have in your pantry already since I told you to shop for them a few days ago. (Right?)

1. Whole Wheat Pasta
2. Quinoa
3. Frozen Spinach
4. Canned or Frozen Artichokes
5. Eggs
6. Onions

I find if I have nothing else but these long-lasting pantry friends in the kitchen (plus a few basics like olive oil, soy sauce, and Parm) I can almost always churn out a fast, healthy meal that will bridge me to the weekend. Here are five of those meals below. Please feel free to recommend any combinations I’m forgetting. I can always use more meds…I mean ideas. (more…)

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The Six-Kid Crowdpleaser

October 4th, 2010 · 48 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Quick

A few weeks ago my friend Vanessa invited my family to her house for dinner. She and her husband cooked the most delicious meal — not to mention presented a perfect starter plate (prosciutto-wrapped bocconcini and halved fresh figs) that I’ve already stolen and passed off as mine in my own house. Twice. But the real highlight of the evening was watching my kids (and four others) devour her creamy-tomatoey baked chicken before they headed to the basement for a Scooby Doo screening. Because my kids had never eaten it before, I was all ready to give them the usual song-and-dance – It’s like Chicken Parm, but the cheese is in the sauce instead of on top of the chicken! But none was needed. They ate every last bite and I found myself sneaking a spoonful of what remained in the pot when Vanessa was in the other room setting the table for the “grown-up” meal. My favorite thing about the recipe, which of course I made Vanessa email me the next day, was that it reads like a tweet. It is that simple. It requires only six basic ingredients and (after some technique tweaking) only one pot. You’re welcome.

Baked Chicken in Creamy Tomato Sauce

In an ovenproof skillet or Dutch oven (sorry photo does not show either), brown 3 to 4 large boneless chicken breasts over high heat in olive oil, about 2 minutes a side. Remove breasts from pan. (They do not have to be cooked through.) Turn down heat to medium-low and add one onion (finely chopped) and 2 cloves garlic (minced). After about 2 minutes, stir in one 15-ounce can chopped tomatoes and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in 3-4 tablespoons mascarpone and a handful of roughly chopped basil. Add chicken back to pan, immersing them in sauce. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes.

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As Promised…Simple Family Dinner

April 26th, 2010 · 9 Comments · Dinner, Rituals

Ok, so you haven’t forgotten about this week’s family dinner, have you? Since you are following my every word, you remembered to pick a night this week when everyone was home, right? And since I am following your every word, I know that you want something easy. Like under 20 minutes easy. Here we go. Let me know how you do.

Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook 1 pound of orecchiette (or other small pasta) according to package directions. Drain and reserve about 1/4 cup of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, while the pasta cooks, heat a little olive oil in a large skillet. Cook a 1/2 pound of sweet pork sausage (about two links or approximately the amount pictured above) whose casings have been removed. Break up the meat. After meat has lost its pink color, add 2 teaspoons of white vinegar, and a handful of something green such as frozen peas or chopped broccoli florets (or broccolini) and cook about 7 to 10 minutes.

Transfer sausage mixture to a bowl; add the pasta, a little butter, reserved pasta water, and 1/3 cup grated Parmesan. Add salt & pepper. Toss to combine.

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Fettucini with Brussels

March 23rd, 2010 · 15 Comments · Dinner, Pasta, Picky Eating, Quick, Vegetarian

When I was growing up brussels sprouts were a “punchline” food — like liverwurst and mushrooms, turning up in cartoons and sitcoms as dinner table fare kids classically hated. Things are different now — I literally can’t go a week without eating them and the girls don’t seem to know (or care) about its reputation as grown-up-only food. This recipe is a perfect weeknight dish — it takes only a few minutes. If you have a food processor on the counter, try shredding the sprouts before sauteeing. It makes them cook faster and also gives them a consistency that integrates well with ribbon pasta. (If integration is exactly what turns off the kids, of course, be sure to set aside some plain pasta before combining.)

Of course, my problem is not the brussels but the pasta — Phoebe will eat pounds of the “little lettuce leaves,” but won’t go anywhere near a noodle, so she’s allowed to have a piece of toasted baguette instead. Can’t win.

Fettucini with Shallots and Brussels Sprouts

2 to 3 large handfuls (2 cups) of Brussels sprouts, trimmed (buy the bag of pre-shredded kinds in Trader Joe’s)
1 pound fettuccini (or whole wheat spaghetti or any ribbon pasta)
red pepper flakes
1 small shallot, chopped (or a handful of chopped regular onion)
some generous glugs of olive oil
Parmesan to taste

Slice sprouts in a food processor fitted with slicing disk or chop thinly (or open your Trader Joe’s bag!) Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add red pepper flakes and onion and saute about 2 minutes until shallots have softened. Add Brussels sprouts, a little salt and a twist of pepper, then cook over medium-high heat until tender and lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water, then drain fettucini. Add pasta to brussels and toss to combine, adding pasta water as needed to loosen. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan.

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