Monday, November 21, 2011


When Brock got home tonight, Owen summed up our afternoon for him this way: "Ollie started it, I made it worse, then Mom was just being mean".   I really couldn't have described the situation more accurately myself.  
It's times like these that I just have to leave Brock with the savages and sneak off to do my own thing for a while, like run off some steam on the treadmill.  Or, tonight I simply retreated to the quiet of my laundry room and folded some clothes.  In any case, when I re-emerge to the real world that is my kitchen, I realize I should have started on dinner a half hour ago.  I roll up my sleeves and start searching freezer, fridge and pantry for something super-quick.  I'm not talking "30-minute-meals" quick (is it just me or do those recipes always take longer than 30 minutes to make anyway?), but 20 or less-- really.  The following is a list of things we eat on nights like tonight-- when I just need to get some food on the table so we can get those boys fed and in bed.  Here's to a fresh start in the morning-- and hopefully a slightly more thought-out dinner tomorrow night...

    • Bread, cheese and fruit:  This is pretty much just what it sounds like-- a big platter of whatever you have on hand.  I usually put out a couple kinds of cheese for me and Brock (e.g. goat cheese or smoked gouda) and a simple cheese for the kids (usually good old white cheddar), slice up a chunk of whole grain french bread and/or get out an assortment of crackers, cut up some fruit, and check the fridge and pantry for bonus items, like olives, pickles or nuts.  Voila-- crowd pleaser.
    • Veggie Burgers and sweet potato fries:  I usually do the store-brand version of original Gardenburgers on a 100% whole wheat bun, with cheese, lettuce, mustard and ketchup.  But there are a million variations on this, so experiment and choose whatever floats your boat.  For the fries, I peel sweet potatoes, slice them, then cut again into half-moons, toss with a little olive oil and salt and pepper and bake at 400°-ish until crispy-yet tender.  Or, on nights like tonight I throw some frozen Alexia sweet potato fries in the oven.
    • Quesadillas:  Start with whatever tortilla you can find at the store that has the smallest ingredients list-- believe me, these always taste the best.  At my local grocer these are Tortilla Land raw tortillas, found by the cheese.  Cook one side of the tortilla (if necessary), then top that side with a sprinkling of your favorite cheese (queso fresco is yummy), then add a little of whatever veggies your kids will tolerate (we are, after all, looking for a quick and painless dinnertime), such as frozen corn, chopped spinach, shredded carrots, chopped tomatoes, etc.  Top with more cheese and another half-cooked tortilla, and heat both sides in your tortilla skillet until everything's warm and gooey.  Top your portion with your favorite salsa (mine is Roberto's medium chipotle variety), and put your kids' portions in the freezer 'till they're hardly even warm and therefore a comfortable temperature for them to eat (does anyone else do this, and also feel a little annoyed and silly every time?).
    • Pizza:  We either like to just add some toppings and a little extra mozzarella to a cheese take-and-bake pizza from the deli section of the grocery store, or, with a little extra effort, make pita-pizzas.  Try spreading whole wheat pitas with a little finely chopped spinach or spinach puree before you slather on the sauce-- kids usually don't notice, and adults will probably agree that it has a lot more flavor than plain sauce.  Top it with whatever you like, then sprinkle with mozz (or vice versa if that's your inclination).  Owen's all-time favorite is pineapple-- for which I sometimes hack into a whole fruit.  But, I usually just pick up one of those single-serve fruit cups you can get in the refrigerated section of the produce aisle.  My personal favorite quick-pizza topping combo is finely snipped kale, fresh or roasted red peppers (from the jar if I'm trying to make it fast), and sliced mushrooms (sometimes the pre-sliced ones are even cheaper than whole, per ounce-- one more reason to take a shortcut).  Seriously, kale on pizza is incredible.  So is eggplant, but that takes well beyond 20 minutes to do it right...
    • Broccoli Alfredo: Cook up some of your favorite-shape pasta (Barilla Plus is my favorite brand-- check out the nutrition panel!), adding broccoli florets the last three-or-so minutes of cooking.  Drain and toss with an all-natural, store-bought sauce.  Enough said...  Although a hunk of seedy french bread never hurts this meal.
    • Frito salad:  If the word "Frito" sounds scary to you, you obviously have not looked at the ingredients list.  Here it is, in it's entirety: whole corn, corn oil, and salt.  While I wouldn't recommend eating a whole bag, they can't be that bad for you, right?  This salad is basically just a big salad with whatever toppings sound good, with Fritos to add to the texture and kid-appeal.  My kids actually skip the greens and just have a big plateful of the toppers, like avos, cherry tomatoes, carrots, red peppers, thawed frozen corn, diced cheese and/or black beans (if you do canned, choose Eden Organic ones-- theirs are the only cans not lined with BPA).  Don't forget a generous sprinkling of Fritos, and, for those who like it, a good chipotle ranch.  Mmmm-- chipotle ranch...
    • Grilled cheese and soup:  Skip the can and go for one of those pureed soups in an aseptic container, like Imagine or Pacific brand.  Owen likes the butternut squash variety, sipped through a straw once it's cool.  Oliver goes more for the grilled cheese, which I usually do with monterrey jack or white cheddar on slices of 100% whole wheat, brushed in olive oil.  
    • Veggie chicken nuggets with mac-and-cheese-and-peas:  Our favorite nuggets are the Quorn brand ones, by far (partly because they're soy-free, and also for the texture and flavor), and I usually reach for Annie's when I'm making mac-and-cheese from a box.  I like to throw some sort of veggie right in with the pasta for the last few minutes of boiling (such as frozen peas, chopped spinach, an organic mixture of corn, carrots and peas, or shredded carrots), or stir in a little puree with the milk and cheese mixture (carrot, squash or sweet potato blend in well-- just don't go too nuts or it'll be too goopy).
    • Breakfast-for-dinner:  We like Kashi frozen blueberry waffles with Field Roast apple-sage sausage and whatever fruit we have on hand.  Another favorite dinner-breakfast (or breakfast-dinner?) of ours is sweet potato pancakes and green eggs.  These require a full-on recipe and a little more time, though-- they'll be starring in their own post soon. 
    • Indian food:  Kitchens of India and Tasty Bite make tolerable approximations of our favorite Indian restaurant meals, sold in boil-in-the-pouch packages.  They taste especially good when you're out camping or just feeling really lazy.  I put them over either whole-wheat couscous or brown Minute rice, perhaps with a few frozen peas thrown in while cooking.
    • Spicy tofu: This is my favorite lately-- although due to the spice factor, I usually end up making something else for the kids ("Who wants PB&J tonight?!").  Take a chunk of extra-firm tofu, gently squeeze out the excess water (I like to do this between two small plates so I'm squishing evenly), then pat dry with paper towels or a clean tea towel.  Cube the tofu and toss it in a hot skillet with some oil and let it fry (the key with tofu--if you're not going for a scramble--is to not stir it too often).  Meanwhile, chop up some onion and red bell pepper and throw it in the pan, carefully turning every few minutes.  Once the onions start to get tender, throw in some frozen corn and dump in some sauce, like a packet of Frontera New Mexico Taco Skillet Sauce with roasted tomato + mild red chile (look for it by the enchilada sauce at the grocery store).  Give that a few minutes to simmer and gently turn everything over to coat it.  Put that in a tortilla with a little crumbled queso fresco and some shredded lettuce or cabbage, and you have something beautiful.  But, don't get too entranced by it and forget the PB&J for the kids...

    No comments:

    Post a Comment