I've cooked this meal at least 97 times. It's my go-to crowd pleaser. Chicken breast, seasoned with chipotle pepper and some kosher salt, and then, after grilling, drizzled with lime. Grilled peppers and onions with fixings like guacamole and salsa on the side. (Sometimes I buy the guacamole and salsa from Whole Foods. Shhhh).
My family knows this meal. We eat it at least twice a month.
This is what my dinner rut looks like, which isn't terrible.
I'm finally coming around to giving my final thoughts on Dinner A Playbook, by Jenny Rosenstrach which hits stores in a few weeks which came out a few days ago. I really enjoyed my little challenge and despite having a lot of confidence with meal planning think I learned a lot along the way:
- Planning is good, but have a Plan B. Jenny calls these "security blankets." These are ingredients you can use to pull together a last minute dinner when, say, your fish doesn't defrost in time, or you kid is being really picky. For us, we throw anything in a quesadilla (broccoli, turkey, meatballs, cheese and guac) and call it dinner or I'll put out a meze plate of hummus, pita, olives, cheese, peppers and raw carrots. Both of these get the job done.
- Substitute unfamiliar ingredients in a familiar dish. This is an easy way to switch things up a bit. For example, I made a pretty standard chicken soup, but inspired by Jenny's book, I used barley instead of pasta. I'm in love with barley now.
- For picky children, provide something familiar next to something different (Rule #5 Build Meals Around Familiar Ingredients). They might accidentally put a new food in their mouth. Ha! Josie is currently on a big spaghetti kick so I think I might try some soba noodles (Japanese Spaghetti!) or noodles with peanut sauce (Peanut butter Noodles!) - both dishes I think parents will enjoy equally.
- Prep and Freeze. Jenny recommends unpacking your groceries for the week and doing some prep at the same time. Look at your weekly meal plan and figure out what you can do in advance--make the pesto, whisk the vinaigrette, chop as many vegetables ahead of time. Seems like easy stuff to do, why do it so soon? Because when you walk in the door at the end of a long day, sometimes pouring oil and vinegar in the same jar feels like doing 100 burpees next to bunch of cross-fitters in better shape than you. The more you can gather and arrange, the better!
I recommend this book if you have no idea where to start and planning meals is not your strong suit. There are a bunch of recipes in the book, including some that I still want to try (Chicken Parm Meatballs and Miso Glazed Salmon!), but they are basic and are not going to get you a spot on Top Chef. The book isn't about that. It's about giving guidance on where to start and how to progress towards putting real dinners on the table every night, night, after night, after night. So buy the book and invite Jenny into your kichen. She's there to keep you company---a funny friend who is the voice of reason, would never judge you, and who calls stressed out parents everywhere "her people."
Random house is offering a copy of Dinner a Playbook to an arugula files reader. To enter, leave your go-to weeknight meal in the comments.