Dinner before dark
November 09, 2011
Daylight Savings Time ended November 6th. Yay, you gained a whole extra hour (on a weekend!) Bummer, you have been robbed an entire hour of daylight now through December 22nd.
If you’ve already stashed your superhero cape in the attic from Halloween and have accepted that it seems impossible to serve up a healthy dinner during the week, then let me offer a few tips to see if we can make dinner before dark a reality. (Ok, lets be realistic and forgo the catchy title, and agree to sit down to dinner before (please not during) Dancing With the Stars.)
Let’s start here.
Pick the most appropriate description of your culinary expertise:
a. I think I can locate the start button on the microwave and preheat an oven.
b. “Boil, bake, saut�” – No problem!
c. I could appropriately use the following in a conversation with Padma Lakshmi: chiffonade, julienne, mirepoix, bouillon. I’m ready for something seasonal, refreshing and exciting, yet simple enough that I don’t have to bulldoze my entire evening’s schedule to prepare.
Some solutions for every expertise:
a. So what if the most effort you’ve ever put into dinner was handing over your credit card or rolling down your car window – there are options that are healthy that you can do! No cutting/washing/prepping (basically) required.
Dream Dinners – Go online to find a location (there are 4 in Washington). Select a date (session) that works for your crazy schedule. Go with friends, before picking kids up from school, or after the gym. Walk in with a cooler and head to an assembly station which will have all of the prewashed/cut ingredients ready to be scooped (with provided measuring utensils) into ziplocks. Instructions are provided and staff are happy to help. Transport home and freeze until ready to use. Prepare according to directions. Not interested in tossing ingredients into a bag yourself? They have an express option for those that want to pick up meals ready for a new home in your freezer.
Dinners Ready – With self-assembly options in Kirkland or otherwise delivery options available, this also can be a much healthier alternative to fast food. Check out their website for monthly menus, nutritional information and cooking instructions.
b. Looking for something a bit healthier than Mac and Cheese but requires the same skill set? There are hundreds of options from the typical grocery store.
Let’s take an imaginary lap around the grocery store: pick up some whole grain bread (aim for one that has about 3g fiber per slice), precooked chicken breast (either at the deli counter or perhaps the frozen section), and prewashed lettuce mix to assemble a quick sandwich. Grab a can of your favorite soup (vegetable rather than cream based) to complete the meal. Get a bunch of greens (kale, chard) and saut� in olive oil with a little bit of garlic, dash of salt and balsamic. Need to finish the meal off with something sweet? Pick up a fruit salad from the produce section and drizzle with honey or my favorite cashew cream sauce (below). Chocoholics –how does a healthy chocolate pudding sound? Impossible…right?
Still not convinced you can do this? Here are hundreds of additional products available from Trader Joes that can be prepared in 15 minutes or less (regardless if you are using a microwave, stovetop, or being inventive with something else).
c. Unfortunately for me (and you since you selected C), the more we enjoy cooking, the greater the tendency to get lost in the excitement and spend an entire evening preparing something that ends up looking like Thanksgiving dinner. Get your cooking fix with these flavorful and time-friendly recipes!
Whether you are new to the kitchen or regularly don a chef’s hat, I hope some of these ideas inspire you to have wholesome, time-friendly dinners. Ok, now you can go watch your show. Happy eating!