Chop-and-Chat Recipes

December 13th, 2010 · 11 Comments · Dinner, Quick, Seafood

With all the rather large variables conspiring against family dinner (long hours, long commutes, overscheduled kids) sometimes the best thing you can do to feel in control of the situation is eliminate a bunch of the smaller variables. You know how I feel about getting the milk poured before you start to cook, and about dreaming up strategies to distract the kids while you go about your mincing. But, in my humble opinion, the biggest of the little variables is choosing meals that you are comfortable making, meals that don’t require a recipe or so much focus that you can’t simultaneously chop the tomatoes and carry on a conversation about the cafeteria seating politics of third grade. Not only is it more likely you will cook a fresh, homemade meal, but — if you are working outside the home — you won’t feel like you’re spending yet another half hour apart from the kids after being away from them all day. Only you know the recipes that are filed in the chop-and-chat category in your house, but in mine, it’s this shrimp taco recipe. You should of course feel free to steal it, practice it, and make it your own.

Could anything make me less angry than my little companion stealing cabbage while I prep the fixins?

Easy Shrimp Tacos
Commit this to memory and then throw away the recipe!

Squeeze some fresh lime juice over 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds of shelled raw shrimp. In a large skillet, heat a few glugs of olive or vegetable oil over medium heat and add 1 halved garlic clove. Cook until garlic is golden but not burned, then remove from oil. Add a handful of chopped onion (red, yellow, whatever), a dash of red pepper flakes to taste, salt, and pepper. Add shrimp then cook about 2 minutes a side until the shrimp has been cooked through. Remove to a bowl and cover with foil to keep warn. Wipe down skillet with a paper towel and heat as many whole wheat tortillas (over high heat, about 30 seconds a side) as you need to feed the family. (Six works for our family of four.)

Serve with small bowls of chopped avocado, sliced red cabbage, sliced cherry tomatoes that have been tossed with a spoonful of salsa, and sour cream that has been mixed with a squeeze of lime, a pinch of sugar, and cilantro.

Have the kids assemble their own tacos at the table.

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May 19th, 2010 · 8 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Time for Dinner: The Cookbook, Uncategorized, Vegetarian

I feel any day now that the taco spread (avocados, beans, cheese, chicken, etc) will turn into the “not-again” dinner that chicken was when I was growing up. Whatever dish the fillings go into — quesadillas, mega nachos, taco soup — it’s such a no-brainy strategy for my family since it’s customizable and takes practically no time at all to assemble. Last week, I was pleased to add a new one the rotation: Gorditas. All the same toppings as usual, but the cornbready “cups” were prepared in muffin tins. Pretty exciting stuff for first and second graders.

Adapted from our soon-to-be published Time for Dinner. (Pre-order now!!)

1 8.25-ounce can creamed corn
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup Jack cheese or cheddar
Any of the following fillings: cooked chicken (shredded or in small chunks), black beans, shredded lettuce, shredded cheddar, tomatoes, sour cream, avocado, lime

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the corn, salt, and 1/2 cup water. Whisk in the cornmeal and cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Add the butter and cheese, stirring to combine. Remove from heat.

Grease a 6-cup muffin tin. Divide the corn mixture evenly among the cups, pressing it into the bottom and up the sides to create cups. Bake until crisp, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes, then turn the corn cups out of the tin. Let kids fill with whatever toppings they choose.

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