The Hail Mary Dinner

 

The “Hail Mary” Dinner. You know the one I speak of.

When you get home from your kids’ activities at 6:30pm and realize you don’t really have the time or the ingredients to make a substantial dinner.

I used to feel so smug because when everyone else was posting and complaining about Mondays, I was this stay-at-home / work-at-home mom and Monday was just another day for me. But now all 3 of our kids have dance on Monday nights which means our Monday afternoon schedule looks like this:
2:30pm – Get B&C changed into dance clothes, double-check A’s bag to ensure she has everything she needs; pack snacks for everyone and water or coffee for myself.
3:00pm – Leave and pick up A from school
3:30pm – Arrive at dance studio and help A change; do her hair up in a bun
4:00pm – A’s Tap & Jazz class; C usually naps so B & I sit in the car for awhile
4:30pm – Go inside and have snack
5:00pm – A has Ballet; B&C have Pre-Ballet; I work, read, or chat with parents
5:45pm – B&C finish class; go downstairs & get everyone into outdoor clothes; possibly read a book; collect all bags and miscellaneous STUFF
6:00pm – A finishes class & changes; we all head out to car
6:25pm – Arrive at home; make & eat dinner; homework
7:15pm – Start bedtime routine
7:30pm – Tuck-in Time
8:00pm – BED! A will sometimes stay up to read quietly in bed until 8:30

You can see why it takes ALL MY ENERGY to get through Monday afternoons. This past Monday I used some peppermint & wild orange oil aromatically and it actually gave me an energy boost better than the coffee ever does. (Yes, there’s an oil for that!!)

Which brings me to… The Hail Mary Dinner I whipped up yesterday.

I opened up the cabinets & fridge to see….
Nothing.
Nada.
Zip.
Zilch.
…at least that would be quick and nutritious.

But what did I have?!? Some egg noodles, some leftover chicken, some leftover veggies, and a cookbook. I figured I could whip up a simple sauce/gravy and throw all the stuff together. Kind of a deconstructed casserole, if you will. Sure, we’ll go with that.

So I got the water going for the noodles, pulled out my Betty Crocker cookbook, and opened it to the Sauces section. “Basic White Sauce.” PERFECT! Here’s how to make it:
In a small saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter.
Add 2 tablespoons flour and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined and the lumps are gone.
Gradually add 1 1/2 cups milk, stirring all the while.
Season with salt & pepper, and heat over medium high heat until it starts bubbling.
Continue cooking until sauce thickens.
Because it was so bland, I added some garlic and onion powder to taste.

While the sauce thickened, I reheated and cut up the chicken into bite size pieces, and reheated the leftover veggies in the microwave. I cooked the noodles and added a pat or two of butter, stirring until melted & mixed.

I added the chicken into the sauce.
I spooned the noodles into bowls.
I sprinkled some veggies over the noodles.
I scooped the chicken sauce over the noodles, and….
BAM! DINNER!

 

HailMary dinner

It was actually pretty good! Thankfully, the chicken was well-seasoned, so when I mixed it with the bland sauce, it was perfect. The kids gobbled it right up. To be fair, they probably would’ve eaten anything at that point, since they were so hungry.

Regardless, it boosted my confidence that I could create a real meal in a pinch without too much trouble. (PS. Leftovers make an excellent lunch the next day.)

HAIL MARY

 

When have you made a delicious dinner in a pinch? What did you make?

Maximize your Time & Minimize your Waste in the Kitchen

I have never been one of those people that could have a marathon cooking day once a week and freeze meals in advance. I just don’t think I’m organized enough for that. Honestly, I don’t usually have that much time carved out in one day either.

But today I probably got the closest I ever will to that concept. (And it felt AWESOME!)

You know if you read the blog frequently that I almost always make substitutions on recipes from my OHI (On Hand Ingredients), for two main reasons:
1. To use up an OHI before it goes bad
2. To prevent purchasing an ingredient solely for the purpose of one dish, thus increasing savings

I have a hard time buying fresh herbs for this reason; I generally don’t need an entire bunch of a particular herb for a recipe – it usually only calls for 1-2 sprigs, or a handful of leaves, etc. And then I throw the rest away once it has been sitting in my fridge long enough that it goes bad.

But – with proper meal planning, and by beginning to make more things from scratch, I think I’ve begun to master the art of using all parts of every ingredient.

Prepping station!

Prepping station!

With just a few hours in the kitchen today, I made:
*Grilled Chuck Steak
*Chimichurri
*Quinoa with celery, corn, and parsley
*Creamed spinach
*Prepped veggies for chicken noodle soup
*Prepped veggies for homemade vegetable stock
*Celery sticks for snacking

From left: Veggie Stock ingredients, Veggies for chicken soup, chimichurri, quinoa, steak

From left: Veggie Stock ingredients, Veggies for chicken soup, chimichurri, quinoa, steak

Not only does this save me time for tomorrow because I did all the prep work at once, but I used up every part of the celery and parsley and used almost every other ingredient in more than one way.

Here’s the meal and prep plan.

DINNER, NIGHT 1:
Grilled Steak (cut and season)
Chimichurri (parsley, cilantro, garlic, EVOO, RW vinegar, jalapeno, oregano, S&P)
Quinoa (corn, parsley, celery, lemon juice, EVOO, mozzarella, salt)
Creamed Spinach (frozen chopped spinach, cream cheese, half and half)
Avocado (I like it with my steak – it cuts the saltiness of the chimichurri)
wpid-IMG_20140226_175022.jpg

OVERNIGHT STOCK:
Onion
Carrots
Celery
Parsley
Garlic
Asparagus (which was almost ready to be thrown out)
*Stock to cook in crock pot overnight

LUNCH, DAY 2:
Steak wraps with chimichurri, cheddar, lime, avocado, tomato
I might even try the leftover quinoa IN the wrap… I’ll let you know how that goes


DINNER, NIGHT 2
:
Homemade stock (from crock pot)
Chicken
Prepped veggies (carrot, parsley, celery, onion)
Homemade whole wheat bread
*Soup to cook in crock pot all day, after straining veggies out of stock

So, when you’re doing your meal planning, think about multiple uses for each item you’re buying – especially produce, since this expires quickest.

The steps below outline my thought process for meal planning to maximize your time and minimize your waste. Give it a try and let me know if it works for you!

1. Choose one night to try a new recipe and/or a new ingredient.
2. Think of other ways to use the ingredients in that recipe, or a different way to use that new ingredient. Implement meals according to those thoughts.
3. Always keep in mind ideas for leftovers so you’re not just reheating old meals, but you’re also not throwing things away.
4. Do prep all at once, as much as possible.
5. Research ways to use the ‘throwaway’ parts of produce and protein.