15 Sorta Kinda Truths About Dinner

Those of you who have your Ph.D in D.A.L.S. are already aware of the groundbreaking scientific work we’ve done proving various theories about dinner — the preparing of it, the consumption of it, the enjoyment of it. For instance, this well-worn favorite: When you take three measly minutes in the morning to do something that helps you get the momentum going on dinner prep — chopping vegetables, marinating meat, placing a pot of water on the stovetop  — you will end up saving up to 15 minutes on the other end of the day when you arrive home from work. I can’t pretend to know why this is the case — as backing up our dinner theories with real data tends to take more time than we actually have. Time we would rather spend coming up with more impossible-to-prove wrong theories. Such as:

  1. Shredding bagged lettuce makes it taste fresher and better. It doesn’t matter what kind of lettuce — romaine, iceberg, endive — Last night I made some chili-rubbed chicken and placed it on a bed of shredded spinach (pictured above; recipe below), which I usually find chewy in its whole raw form. Not the case with the shred. Along the same lines, the fine chop of anything as it pertains to a saladex summerus will almost always upgrade it.
  2. When it comes to entertaining: Each kid under eight years old is the equivalent of five grown-ups in terms of volume and space and mess generating.
  3. Heat is the great equalizer when it comes to bagels. I’ll take a just-out-of-the-oven bagel from Missoula over a cold outer-borough bagel any day. (Please do not forward this to my Bronx-born Jewish father.)
  4. Dinner will taste twice as good when it’s eaten outside. It will taste three times as good when eaten in an outdoor space surrounded by white string lights. Four times as good when eaten in an outdoor space surrounded by white string lights and with a view of any body of water.
  5. Magic Formulas Worth Committing to Memory: Melon + Salt; Mint + Peas; Peanut Butter + Fudge Brownies; Bacon + Brussels Sprouts; Bacon + Eggs; Bacon + Maple; Bacon + Bacon; Bacon + Shoe Leather
  6. The quality of dinner at a restaurant is in converse proportion to the number of words on that restaurant’s menu. For instance, Tom Colicchio’s menu at Craft. This is how it reads: Mushrooms. Potatoes. Braised Short Ribs. A menu like that is always going to win out over the one listing Pork chops marinated in brandy and pomegranate juice with sweet potatoes and miso-mango chutney on a bed of shaved salsify and butter lettuces. (Another red flag: the pluralization of lettuce.)
  7. Kids are able to tap into deep wells of resourcefulness with remarkable efficiency when it comes to assembling the ice cream, the peanuts, and the chocolate sauce for sundaes.
  8. You won’t find a single parenting expert who endorses using bribery to convince a kid to eat.
  9. You won’t find a single parenting expert, who is a parent, who hasn’t used bribery to convince her kid to eat.
  10. Food eaten on sticks has a 40% higher rate of consumption with kids. Food served in conjunction with dips: 20%.
  11. Pop Tarts, Apple Jacks, Toast-R-Cakes, and other usually verboten breakfast foods possess nutritional merits when consumed on vacation.
  12. Everything tastes better on vacation. It just does.
  13. Anything braised tastes better the next day cold, eaten right out of its leftover dish with a fork, while standing in front of the refrigerator.
  14. Be wary of people who say they enjoy radishes dipped in salt.
  15. It’s practically the law that the phone call from the client  — the one you’ve been dying to check off your list all day — always comes five minutes before you are leaving the office to make it home in time for dinner. Don’t question it. Don’t fight it. Don’t try to control this phenomenon or — worse — allow it to control you.


Chili-rubbbed Chicken with Shredded Spinach (Rule 1) and Dip (Rule 10)
I generally go with about one medium size chicken breast per diner. You don’t need a lot of chicken if there is enough salad to stretch it. Best part about this meal: totally deconstructible for the kid who doesn’t want anything touching.

For rub: In a small bowl, mix together the following:
1 tablespoon chili powder
pinch cayenne (1/8 tsp)
pinch garlic salt (1/8 tsp)
2 generous pinches salt (1/2 tsp total)
shake or two of dried oregano

For dressing: In a measuring cup, mix together the following:
juice from 1 lime
3 heaping tablespoons sour cream
3 heaping tablespoons salsa
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 – 1 teaspoon of sugar (to taste)

Pound 3 to 4 chicken breasts until about 1/4 inch thick. (As always, the most important thing is that the breasts are of even thickness.) Sprinkle a teaspoon of spice rub on top of each breast and, using your fingers, spread and press into the meat. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil to a skillet set over medium heat. Add chicken, spice-side down and cook 3-5 minutes until chicken looks cooked around the edges. While chicken is cooking, sprinkle and rub spice mixture into the other side of chicken. (Do not outsource this step to your children; there will be spitting oil.) Flip and cook another 3-5 minutes until cooked through. Slice as shown above — or actually however you want.

In a bowl, toss together a few handfuls of baby spinach (shredded with a chef’s knife into confetti), thawed frozen corn, 1/2 can black beans (drained and rinsed), 1 avocado (chopped), grape tomatoes (chopped), 1 bunch scallions (chopped), 1/4 cup cilantro (chopped). Top with chicken and drizzle with dressing.

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As a born and bred New Yorker, I am giving #3 a squint and a glare. The rest of the post gets a thumbs up though! =)


#14 made me think of my grandma’s favorite summertime appetizer throughout my childhood: scallions dipped in salt. She always had a couple on the side of her plate. But not radishes. Personally, I prefer my radishes sauteed (+bacon would not be amiss) or sliced onto cream cheese sandwiches!


You had me right up to the radishes, too. I like a really good, fresh, not too late in the season radish in salt. Sara, my dad also used to eat young scallions dipped in salt. He grew up in Iowa eating right out of the garden on their farm (before that kind of thing was trendy). Totally agree with the rest of the list!


Re: The Radish Scandal
I think my issues with the radish-salt combo is that it’s usually served as a starter when someone is having you over for dinner, right? And so if that is all there is, I can’t help but think, OK, I can handle a radish with salt, but where is the cheese? Where is the sausage? Where is the guacamole? Something to fill me up just a little! In that context, it has been sort of hard for me to truly embrace. I apologize to all the radishopiles out there.

A Life From Scratch

I’m laughing – I think I was nodding along to every rule and then I got to the radishes…! The salt….the room temperature butter…the CRUNCH! It’s all soooo good.

That being said, I never serve them alone. They are typically paired with some roasted veggies and italian cheese & meats on an antipasto platter.


I don’t know of this radishes dipped in salt of which you all speak. However, sliced radishes dipped in fancy spicy mustard are divine. And I don’t like radishes *or* mustard.

And #9 happens the very meal after you’ve just told a friend about all of the experts referenced in #8. There are always tears.


Who knew radishes would be so controversial? I agree, Jenny, they are not an adequate starter if that is all you are serving (if you just have radishes to start, how is that strong flavor going to color the rest of the meal?!) Here’s to lovely, abundant starter trays (my favorite part of many meals!)


Sliced radishes with fresh squeezed lemon and salt…absolutely the best summer side dish. I like to serve it with carne asada or fish tacos. Yummy!


Why wait to rub the spice mix onto the top side of the chicken? Why not rub the mix all over the chicken breasts before you put them in the hot oil?


Wow I’ve never even heard of eating radishes with salt (or butter!) but after reading all these comments I think I need to…

MC Chau

I just got introduced to your website and I love it as I love to cook!!! Great recipes! Also…

I read your newsletter, do I win the Jane Marvel tote?


Do you think this chicken could be made in the over rather than on the stove top? I prefer to toss it in the oven and forget about it!


Thank you!!! My two super-picky eaters actually ate dinner — chicken, veggies, sauce, everything! (The adults ate everything, too.) This salad is a new favorite in our house.