Posted in Being Healthy, Cooking

Cooking Four Dinners at Once


 

 

Rich with aroma and flavor…a dense, satisfying dinner!

My dilemma:

No one in my family eats the same thing, which makes dinner prep sometimes challenging. One of my family does not eat salmon, which means any time I cook salmon, I have to also cook some other major protein for him.  Tonight, chicken is the compliment. Luckily, I’m in the mood for a preparation that I can use on both: oven poaching. Another eats only certain carby dishes and no veggies, while I want to keep a good balance of carbs and veggies. And, guess what, I can and will do this with only three dishes: 1 entree (2 meats), 1 carby side, and 1 veggie side.

Okay, the game plan:

    1. poached salmon and poached chicken breast (both currently frozen)
    2. potatoes au gratin (Betty Crocker box mix)–for the boys
    3. frozen peppers and onions sauteed with some fresh onion and purple cabbage over egg noodles–for the girls

Step 1. Put the fish and chicken out to thaw…or not. Since oven-poaching is the regular person’s way of saying steam or even en papillote, you have probably done this before…with frozen meat since the water and juices help with the cooking.

Light and fruity

Step 2. Choose a flavor combo. This will determine the liquid and herbs you use throughout the meal, but most importantly in the pan or baking dish with the fish/chicken. Tonight, I have decided to finally open and use one the bottles of Rose Merlot I recently purchased on my trip to Long Island to visit Rachel, Al, Carter, and Samuel. Rachel and I have always made at least one of our visit days a Long Island vineyard day. This past November, I found this Rosé Merlot at Palmer Vineyards on the North Fork of Long Island; Palmer can ship wines to the following states: AK,DC,IA,ID,IL,MN,MO,NH,NY,OH,RI. With the lightness and fruitiness of this wine, I will pair the classic Herbs de Provence, a combination of thyme (dominant), fennel, savory, basil, and lavender (only in the US).

Alternative combos that I like:

  • lemon juice and basil/oregano/garlic
  • balsamic vinegar and garam masala (or curry and coriander)
  • pineapple juice and cayenne pepper
  • soy sauce and ginger/dry mustard
  • apple juice and all-spice (think pork chops that will be paired with butternut squash or pumpkin

 

You can barely see the wine, but it’s there, with a liberal dusting of herbs de provence. That’s two boneless breasts, two bone-in thighs, and two bone in legs

Step 3. Prepare the poach.

Since the salmon and chicken will need different cooking times, I use two 9×9 baking dishes. Since most of the liquid bases are acidic (I guess you could use water?), I try to use glass or ceramic baking dishes, but if I have to use a metal one (because everything else is dirty), then I am careful to line it with aluminum foil so that the acid doesn’t leech anything out of the metal and into my food.

Simply pour in about 1/4-inch of liquid. For a 9×9 pan, this is usually about 1/3-1/2 cup of liquid. Place the meat in a single layer in the dish (yes, touching sides is okay) and season as lightly or liberally as your palette desires.

Cover the dish very tightly with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees: salmon for 30 minutes, chicken for 40 minutes.

NOTE: this is a fantabulous way to cook just one meal at a time and cut down on dishes to wash. Just prepare your one piece of meat in a parchment or aluminum foil pouch, no pan at all.

Step 4. Set water to boil on the stovetop and get crackin on the Betty Crocker potatoes au gratin. Sure, I can and do make these from scratch, but I have a 6:30 meeting tonight, and my family doesn’t care if it comes out of a box.

Noodles in the back, veggies and potatoes in the front

Now, the directions offer both oven and stovetop directions; I am choosing the stovetop preparation tonight because the oven temp and cooking times vary so significantly for the meat and potatoes that one or the other would be…well, yucky, to be technical. The stovetop directions require only boiling time and 15 minutes of simmering. And since I’ll already be at the stove doing the veggies (coming up next), it’s an efficiency of effort that I can’t pass up.

So, Betty Crocker potatoes au gratin, prepared just as the directions say. Once you get to the simmering step, you should be ready for the next step.

Step 5. Drop the egg noodles into the other pot of boiling water and cook just as your package’s directions say…around 8-10 minutes. Go ahead and set up the strainer in the sink now.

Step 6. Drop your veggies into the skillet with just a drizzle of olive oil. Fresh veggies go in first since they need a little more softening; the frozen ones were blanched before freezing, so they only need to thaw. Tonight I’m using fresh onions and carrots. And I’ll let them just sit still in the skillet for a few minutes with their salt and pepper and herbs de provence sprinkle, until I’m convinced they are getting a little soft…and they start to get a little brown…not actually carmelized but just a hint of starting. That’s when it’s time to drop in the frozen peppers and onions and pop the lid onto the skillet. Trap in the heat and let the water from the frozen veggies steam the combo with the lid on. Chop up the purple cabbage ( just a quarter head we had leftover from cole slaw a few weeks ago) and drop it on top at the last minute. Snap the lid back on for about 3 minutes…and you’re done.

I like to mix my noodles and veggies in the skillet together, but if you need to keep them separate for pickiness sake or figuring out nutrition, you can mix them on your plate.

My plate…a little bit of everything…with the leftover chicken ready for tomorrow night 🙂

 

All done. Ready to plate:

  • For brother: salmon and potatoes au gratin
  • For dad: chicken, potatoes au gratin, and veggies and noodles
  • For mom: salmon and veggies and noodles
  • For me: salmon, potatoes au gratin, and veggies and noodles

That’s four specialized dinner plates making four people happy and full coming out of one 45-minute dinner preparation, which is pretty normal when you consider all the chopping and pulling out pans and stuff.

Weight Watchers PointsPlus: for this meal, I’ll break down each item:

  • 3 oz poached chicken breast = 3 points
  • 3 oz poached salmon = 4 points
  • 1/2 cup Betty Crocker potatoes au gratin = 4 points
  • 1/2 cup egg noodles = 4 points
  • veggies = FREEEEEE!

So my dinner = 12 points

 

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Author:

If you've had my cooking or heard me sing, you've shared some of the happiest and most memorable moments of my life. But if you've been lucky enough to listen to me sing while I cook, well, then you've seen the real me. And if you've sung and cooked with me, you know what being loved by me is!

One thought on “Cooking Four Dinners at Once

  1. Nice job! I love the tips you gave throughout (like the reminder about lining the metal pan when you use acidic liquids) and I noticed something tres importante (yes, I am tri-lingual in one sentence)….we both love the parentheses, so that makes me love reading your blog even more.

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