Besides homework and cooler days, September returns us to a sense of routine. The kids are back in school and your workload becomes predictable. Extracurricular activities are on the calendar. Maybe you’ve planned a couple of weekends for apple picking or trekking through the foliage.
But often that routine sends us into a rut when it comes to meal-planning. It’s a time when you look at your pantry and know at a moment’s glance what you’ll put on the table for dinner. Hauling out the tried-and-true recipes works well until around the time Santa shows up. Then the family gets bored with the same-old-same-old. The sounds of “We’re having that again?” coincide with "Auld Lang Syne."
By February, my family has gone on strike if they see chicken cacciatore. The smells of pasta with sausage and arugula sends them running. Although they’re delicious in their own right, and certainly comforting on a winter night, too much of a good thing leads to war in some households.
Before your recipes become a cause for angst at the dinner table, keep a few surprises on hand. The following dishes are tasty, easy and seriously quick in the middle of the week. Prep time is under 10 minutes and served with rice and a steamed vegetable, these main dishes could soon find a place in your dinner arsenal. Until, of course, the family riots against them.
1 1/4 pound boneless, skinless breasts
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
Preheat oven to 400°. Coat an oven-proof dish with cooking spray.
Cut breasts in half length-wise so that the pieces are thin. You could also pound them, but cutting saves time and hassle. Salt & pepper the breasts.
Whisk vinegar and mustard together, then slowly whisk in oil. Pour about a quarter of the marinade into the dish to cover the bottom. Lay chicken pieces on top, then pour the remaining marinade over chicken. Bake for 20 minutes or until done. Serve with rice and the sauce on the side.
2 T olive oil
1 T butter
2 fat cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1 1/4 pound peeled shrimp
3/4 c chicken stock
3 T chopped parsley
Heat the olive oil and butter in a large, non-stick pan. Add the garlic, oregano and pepper flakes and stir for about one minute. Add the shrimp and let cook for about two minutes, then toss, cooking for another two minutes. Pour in the stock and let it come to a boil for another two minutes. Off heat, stir in parsley. Serve over rice.
Herbed Pork Tenderloin
2 T olive oil
2 one-pound pork tenderloins
1 T dried thyme + 1 T dried sage, mixed
2 T honey mustard
1 cup chicken stock
Preheat oven to 450°. Pat the tenderloins dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in an oven-proof skillet. Add the tenderloins and sear on all sides for about 3 minutes per side. Remove from skillet and coat the top of each tenderloin with a tablespoon of mustard. Pat the herb mixture on top of the mustard. Return tenderloins to the skillet and place in oven. Roast for 25 minutes or until instant read thermometer hits 150°.
Let tenderloins rest under tented foil for about five minutes, then slice and serve with rice.