One of the things that can be very hard is getting dinner on the table quickly when I get home from work. Often I'm tired and don't feel like dealing with it. Usually Liam is hungry and that makes him clingy and temperamental. I've spent some time lately trying to get a better handle on dinner. If it goes well, we have a good evening. If it goes poorly, well, let's just say we've all been in tears more than once.
The key for me is thinking it through ahead of time and finding things that cook fast. (Aside: I now heart couscous because it cooks so fast.) So, here's Tuesday's dinner: spice-rubbed chicken from the grill, couscous with pine nuts and raisins, tomatoes, and sauteed zucchini. It came together in about 20 minutes, no fooling. Here are the steps.
- Make the spice rub. Anything will do. I used about a teaspoon each of cumin and chili powder and about half a teaspoon of allspice and cinnamon. Adding turmeric might have been good, I'm trying to add more of that to our diet, but I forget. One could make this in advance for sure.
- Cut up the chicken and put it on skewers. Salt and pepper. Dump on the spice rub. Put it in the fridge and wash your hands and wash up the counter. This also could be done in advance, say, in the morning before you leave for work. I'm always trying to remember to do things like that.
- Melt some butter in a pan, add the pine nuts and toast briefly, add the raisins and add the couscous and coat with butter. Turn off.
- Start the grill.
- Cut up the zucchini. Start it cooking in a hot pan with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Turn it down so it doesn't cook too fast.
- While the zucchini is cooking, get a can of chicken broth and pour it into a measuring cup, add whatever water you need to have enough liquid to cook however much couscous you are making, and zap it in the microwave until it's hot.
- Turn the couscous back on briefly, add the hot liquid and stir. Cover and cook on low for a few minutes and then turn it off and let the liquid absorb.
- If there is someone to grill the chicken for you, find him/her and get them to do the grilling. Chicken on skewers is great because it cooks evenly and fast. 4-5 minutes a side, maybe less is about all it needs. If you're on your own, turn the zucchini way down or off (it should be cooked by now) and do the grilling yourself.
- While someone is grilling for you (or while the chicken is resting if you did the grilling yourself) cut the tomatoes in half and add a little olive oil, a little sherry vinegar and some salt, pepper and whatever herb you have handy. I like thyme.
That's it. Make up the plates, pour the milk, and dinner is on the table. Liam ate it all happily except for the tomatoes.