Thursday, April 15, 2010

Five Nights of 30-minute (or less) Dinners

I am posting this because a friend asked me what to do when the parent who cooks gets home at 7 pm, and there is a hungry toddler and baby at home, and mom isn't going to be home for another 30 minutes! And, she will of course be starving as well. This is not the time to make to be making beef bourguignon and creme brulee. This is the part where you look at my list of 20-minute dinners that you printed out and attached to your fridge for some quick ideas. And, as always, improvise! 

#1 Tuna Melt
- add a warm cup of your favorite soup to the side. We keep boxes of Imagine tomato and butternut squash soup on hand, or a simple cup of miso will work great! 

12 ounces canned chunk light tuna, drained (see Note)
1 medium shallot, minced (2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley
Dash of hot sauce
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 slices whole-wheat bread, toasted
1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

Preheat broiler
Combine tuna, shallot, mayonnaise, lemon juice, parsley, salt, hot sauce and pepper in a medium bowl. 

Spread 1/4 cup of the tuna mixture on each slice of toast; top with tomato slices and 2 tablespoons cheese. Place sandwiches on a baking sheet and broil until the cheese is bubbling and golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. (source: EatingWell)

#2 Almond Crusted Chicken Fingers
- serve with steamed veggies

Cooking spray, butter, or ghee
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 large egg whites
1 pound chicken tenders (see note)

Preheat oven to 475°F. 
Line a baking sheet with foil. 
Set a wire rack on the baking sheet and coat it with cooking spray, butter, or ghee
Place almonds, flour, paprika, garlic powder, dry mustard, salt and pepper in a food processor; process until the almonds are finely chopped and the paprika is mixed throughout, about 1 minute. With the motor running, drizzle in oil; process until combined. Transfer the mixture to a shallow dish.
Whisk egg whites in a second shallow dish. Add chicken tenders and turn to coat. Transfer each tender to the almond mixture; turn to coat evenly. (Discard any remaining egg white and almond mixture.) Place the tenders on the prepared rack and coat with cooking spray; turn and spray the other side.
Bake the chicken fingers until golden brown, crispy and no longer pink in the center, 20 to 25 minutes
Chicken tenders, are a strip of rib meat typically found attached to the underside of the chicken breast, but they can also be purchased separately. Four 1-ounce tenders will yield a 3-ounce cooked portion. Tenders are perfect for quick stir-fries, chicken satay or kid-friendly breaded “chicken fingers.”

#3 Lamb burgers!! 
This is officially my favorite burger recipe (source: EatingWell March/April 2010)

4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon lemon zest, preferably Meyer lemon (see Shopping Tip), divided
2 tablespoons lemon juice, preferably Meyer lemon
1 teaspoon honey, preferably orange-blossom honey
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup unseasoned dry breadcrumbs, preferably whole-wheat
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound lean ground lamb, preferably from the leg (see Note
4 sandwich buns, preferably whole-wheat
4 cups mâche (lamb’s lettuce) or coarsely chopped butter lettuce
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves

Whisk oil, 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest, lemon juice, honey, mustard, poppy seeds, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl. Set aside.
Combine breadcrumbs, chives, garlic, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl. Add lamb and gently knead until combined. Form into 4 patties.
Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Add the patties; cook until there is just a hint of pink in the center, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate; tent with foil to keep warm.
Meanwhile, warm or toast buns, if desired. Add mâche (or lettuce) and mint to the bowl with the dressing; toss to coat. Place the lamb burgers on the buns and top with salad greens (a generous 3/4 cup each).

#4 English Muffin or Pita Pizzas
- you know the drill, choose toppings your little one loves 

4 Whole wheat english muffins or pita pockets
1/3 cup of your favorite sauce (I use a can of plain organic sauce and add my own herbs)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar (or crumbled feta or goat cheese)
1/4 cup of small broccoli florets
1/2 cup of protein (sauteed ground turkey, beef, lamb, etc.. I use leftover burgers from the night before
Experiment with toppings. My kid loves a little shredded beet on his pizza.

1. Preheat broiler
2. Place pizzas on broiler pan and put in broiler for about 5 minutes - check frequently to prevent burning

#5 Make one night per week a regular meal night.
We usually declare Friday night pizza night. I always have dough available in the freezer, and we use whatever toppings we can find. Another fun one is breakfast night! We chose Friday's because we are often low on food on Friday, it's been a long week, and we want minimal cooking/prep. Breakfast night is great, you can apply the pizza theory to an omlet - add whatever you have left to the omelette. Any combination of cheeses, meats, and veggies, herbs, and even fish! I add canned salmon to my omelette for extra protein and omega 3's. 

Mom and dad can add a side salad or extra veggies to any of the above recipes for a complete meal. 

Shopping List
2 ounces canned chunk light tuna

1 medium shallot
2 lemons
flat-leaf parsley
loaf of whole-wheat bread
2 tomatoes
a block of sharp Cheddar cheese
Goat or feta cheese
sliced almonds (1/2 cup, buy pre-sliced)
whole-wheat flour
a dozen (or two) eggs
1 pound chicken tenders (or breasts, I always by 2 and put 1 in the freezer
poppy seeds
unseasoned dry breadcrumbs, preferably whole-wheat (use stale bread and make your own
fresh chives
1 bulb of garlic
1 pound lean ground lamb
4 sandwich buns, preferably whole-wheat
4 cups mâche (lamb’s lettuce) or coarsely chopped butterhead lettuce
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
4 Whole wheat english muffins or pita pockets
Jar or can of your favorite pizza sauce
Jar or can of sliced black olives
bunch of broccoli
mushrooms (for pizza, if desired)
1 bag of spinach (for omelette, pizza, or salad
1 bag of salad greens (for sides on everything above
A box or two of your favorite soups (I like
Imagine box soups)

Poppy seeds (optional

Herbs and Spices
garlic powder
dry mustard

Dijon mustard
extra virgin olive oil
cooking spray, butter, or ghee

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