Friday, June 8, 2012

Family Dinners

Weekday dinners aren't easy. They need to be quick, healthy and loved eaten by all. If everyone truly enjoys a meal, then I earn a medal. Seriously folks. It ain't easy to please everyone.

Over the last few months, since we've added a toddler to the crowd, I have come up with a few winners.

Here are the criteria in more detail.

1. Quick. We prefer 30 minutes or less, but can stretch to 45 minutes from opening the fridge to bottoms in the chair on certain days.

2. Healthy. This means such different things to different people! I've talked to several nutrition experts and try to use the My Plate diagram they, and our pediatrician, recommend for the kids.
For myself, I'm trying to do fewer grains (sorry Kansas folks!) This said, a healthy dinner at our house requires a protein, a vegetable and either a grain or a fruit. (We eat fruit at both breakfast and lunch, and the kids and I drink milk for dinner.)

3. Eaten by All. Simply put, everyone will eat the meal. They don't have to love it. As long as more makes it into the tummies than on the kitchen walls, we are good.

We have two meals that have been working well for us recently and ironically, I served one on Tuesday and the other one is coming up tomorrow night.

Meal One: Yellow Rice, Carrots and Chicken

- Goya or another saffron yellow rice
- Steamed carrots
- Grilled chicken breast (diced) 
- Honey mustard sauce

How I Do It: Defrost chicken by moving it from the freezer to the fridge the night before. When I get home from work I turn on the grill and fill a pot with water for the rice. Then I run upstairs and change clothes. While I'm changing the kids come in. Back downstairs the rice goes in the pot and the kids get fruit or cheese sticks as an appetizer while I peel and slice the carrots and toss them in a Ziploc microwave steam bag. With snacks underway, I take the chicken to the grill (somewhere in the mix I've seasoned t with salt, pepper, smashed garlic and parsley) and get it started. Inside again, I stir the rice and talk to the kids about the day. Somewhere in here my husband arrives home and jumps in to help (truly he does!). The rice is done about the same time as the chicken, as it comes inside I hit start on the microwave. Two minutes later when the carrots are added to the pre-assembled plates we eat.

Its a good meal because you can mix it all together and add a little honey mustard for more flavor (if you're a grown up/kid who allows their foods to touch) or have it on the more bland side without anything touching. Either way food is served about 30 minutes after we walk in the door.

Meal Two: Jerk Chicken with Pineapple Topping

- Goya or another saffron yellow rice
- Chicken breast (diced)
- Black beans
- Pineapple
- Jerk Chicken seasoning

How I Do It: See above for chicken defrost and rice prep. This time the chicken cooks in a skillet in the kitchen. As the chicken cooks, sprinkle with jerk chicken seasoning until it is fairly covered. After the chicken is cooked, add the pineapple (keeping a few slices out for the kids) and half the juice to the skillet for 5-10 minutes. As the chicken is cooking, I rinse the black beans and then put in water to warm up in a small pot or in the microwave.

When the rice is done, I put rice on the plates, then black beans, then chicken and pineapple on top. Finally I use a spoon to drizzle some sauce on top.

Yum.

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