Working It Out Work With Weeknight Dinners

28 Sep

Most mornings at work my coworkers and I discuss our previous evening’s activities, sometime they went to yoga, sometimes they have grad school classes, sometimes they have activities with their kids, and sometimes the evening consists of a dinner success or epic failure. Most of my coworkers are surprised by the meals that I make mid week and feel like they don’t have time to put things like that together. Granted there are times that I make the decision to eat later just so I can make something extra special (like earlier this week with my Savory Braised Beef Short Ribs) or I may bake late into the evening so that Madeline can have muffins in the morning or I can bring something sweet to Treat Friday (the best day of the week) at work, but most of the time I try to make dinner as quickly as possible.

Here are some things that help to make making dinner easier but still delicious, nutritious, and simple.

As Sandra Lee (from Sandra’s Money Saving Meals & Semi-Homemade Cooking With Sandra Lee) always says: take a little help from the store. I did this last night by roasting some asparagus with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper, at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, making a package of Alessi’s Portobello Mushroom Risotto (once boiling takes 21 minutes), and sauteing shrimp in olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper (approximately 6-8 minutes). The whole meal was done in about 30 minutes and it was delicious. It made the perfect amount for just my husband and I.

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Other ways to get help from the store is to use rotisserie chicken, I often get these to use in Chicken Tortilla Soup, by skipping the cooking of the chicken it cuts the prep time down significantly. I will use the chicken for salads, white chicken chili (pictured), in pasta or just by itself with a couple sides (i.e. roasted vegetables, rice, sauteed spinach, Nana’s homemade stuffing, etc).

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I made this chili with rotisserie chicken chopped up, 1 can of chili beans, 1 can of white beans, 1 can of rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies, 1/2 cup frozen corn, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder and topped it with lots of shredded cheddar cheese.

Another way help that I get from the store is always buying shredded cheese, when I am making anything from my favorite enchilada stacks to lasagna and homemade pizza- it helps to save time by not having to shred and shred (or clean your food processor, which for me is a huge chore). I know it may be a little more expensive to buy the shredded stuff but if when I am weighing my time versus a couple cents to a dollar, I’m going to go with saving time.

Stocking my pantry with things like canned beans for the many chili’s I make, dry pasta which holds up forever and cooks quickly, chicken, beef, and vegetable stocks for soups, white and brown rice, different kinds of canned tomatoes (whole, diced, paste, sauce, with herbs, with chilies) etc. help when you are out of ideas but need to produce some sort of dinner. Keeping key items on hand in the fridge like a jar of crushed garlic, onions, soy sauce, different kinds of shredded cheese, eggs, hot sauce, and frozen items like raw deveined shrimp, frozen corn, frozen turkey meatballs, frozen mixed veggies, etc. really help in a pinch.

Other things that help make week night dinners a success are: planning the meals you want to make over the weekend and shopping for all ingredients you need (so as not to be caught without a key item in the 11th hour), reading recipes thoroughly to know all the steps and be prepared to multitask when necessary. I usually take all the ingredients and bakeware/cookware out prior to beginning so that I’m not running back and forth in my kitchen the whole time to get things I need. I was also taught to clean up as I go so I usually try to put mixing bowls or ingredients I’m done with away in between steps, that way I’m not facing a seemingly insurmountable mess once dinner hits the table.
These are some of the things that I do to be able to put down the takeout menu and instead use my creativity to come up with delicious and quick midweek dinners that make my family happy.

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