Still trying to figure out this dance, guys.
That Weeknight Daycare-Pickup-Quality-Family-Time-Then-Make-Dinner Slam Dance (why a slam dance, you ask? Well, I ask you, why not? Also… what’s a slam dance?)
After a month I really, really thought I’d have it down by now. I thought I would come home each night and tackle it with a confidence like this:
For all you parents who have to deal with the same thing night after night, you’ll know what I’m talking about: the desire to spend much-needed quality time with the family while simultaneously putting together a complete and healthy meal to enjoy… it’s HARD!
What happens though – and tell me if it’s just me – is you tend to find something that WORKS, something that is quick and easy and yummy and healthy all at the same time, something that you can go back to over and over again, each time manipulating it juuuuuust slightly so it always appears new and exciting.
Chicken is great for doing this sort of thing. I find you can throw some chicken thighs in an oven with just about any vegetable, boil up some wild rice and BAM. Dinner.
But what about those nights where you don’t have time to bake a protein for 30+ minutes, not including the time it takes to preheat the oven? It’s 6pm. Everyone is home and HONGRAY. What do you do besides pick up the phone and order pizza/thai/whatever again??
My answer: QUINOA.
Yes, quinoa! This little protein-packed grain is the perfect canvas for a delicious always-varying dinner, and night after night, if you must!
A recent quinoa creation of mine happened on a night just like the one I described above. I was late leaving work, late picking up Little Bee, late getting home, late putting on Elmo for our evening dance party, my husband came home late then all at once it was LATE AND WE WERE ALL HUNGRY.
Breaking into a a slight panic, I raided the pantry which – God knows when I actually did this – was packed nicely with an array of different tins of beans and mason jars full of grains and nuts and dried fruits and stocks… “okay,” I thought. “Let’s DO this dinner thing!”
I quickly surveyed the vegetable drawer in the fridge and the somewhat questionable pile of produce in a bowl on the counter. I also found goat cheese! HUZZAH!
From the mishmash of stuff I found just lying around on a Wednesday night, I PROUDLY came up with Kitchen Sink Quinoa. Why “Kitchen Sink”? Because it can have everything but!
And now, I share it with you:
Prep Time: 5 – 10 mins Cook Time: 15 – 20 mins Total Time: 30 mins, tops!
- 1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa, rinsed
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled
- 2 large carrots
- 1 medium onion, peeled
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tin black beans, rinsed
- 1 bunch spinach, washed
- 1 package cherry tomatoes
- goat cheese
- olive oil
- salt & pepper
- toasted pine nuts (optional)
- lemon, for garnish
Using a mini food processor (because who has time to finely dice with a knife on a weeknight?!), grind up the onion, garlic, sweet potato and carrots. If you don’t have a mini food processor, just roughly chop them up as much as you can
In a pan, one that has a lid, heat up some olive oil on medium heat and sautee the mix of onion, garlic and veggies for about 3 minutes, until you can really smell the onion
Add the quinoa and some salt and pepper, and stir around for a couple of minutes, getting it nice and toasty
Once you can smell the toastiness of the quinoa, add the stock and bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer
Add the rinsed black beans to the pan, give it all a little stir then plunk the lid on, leaving it for 15 minutes
While the quinoa is blipping away, puree the washed spinach, a handful of the tomatoes and a tablespoon of olive oil in the food processor to make a drizzly sauce. If you don’t have a food processor, throw the spinach in with the quinoa for the last 5 minutes of cooking so it wilts nicely into everything
If you’re using the pine nuts, toast them in a dry pan for a couple of minutes, making sure to toss them around constantly so they don’t burn
Once the quinoa is all cooked (check it at 15 minutes to see if it needs any more time… it probably won’t, but it doesn’t hurt to take a taste to see!), spoon it into a shallow bowl and top with the sauce (if you’ve made it), halved tomatoes, pine nuts, a healthy chunking of goat cheese and, if necessary, a light seasoning of salt and pepper
Squeeze over a little lemon juice and ENJOY!
Let me know if you tried this recipe, and what alterations you’d make in the future to your own Kitchen Sink Quinoa!