Friday, December 7, 2012

Dinner doesn't have to be complicated

I don't know what it is about dinner, but to me it has always seemed like the one meal of the day that takes work. Before paleo, Carl and I usually ate cereal or toast for breakfast. No work. Lunch was (and still is) often leftovers or something just as easy (turkey slices, boiled eggs, a quick salad, etc.). Again, no work. But dinner? Dinner takes planning. Especially now that we have a tiny mouth to feed.

During the first, oh, nine months or so of motherhood this was a real struggle for me. Now, we have a routine down and the whole process is so much simpler. As long as I have meat and vegetables in the house, I can usually figure something out. Even at the last minute.

I think the one thing that has helped me the most in this department is the realization that dinner does not have to be complicated. I actually love cooking -- trying new recipes is so much fun for me. But Monday afternoon at 5:00pm is not the time to get crazy in the kitchen. The goal is not to make something spectacular that will go down in history as the best weeknight dinner ever. The goal instead is to prepare a healthy meal for our family and to get H fed before the busy evening begins.

Here's an example. If you keep a paleo kitchen like I do, there's a good chance you have a freezer stocked with beef (grass-fed, of course). Let's say you take out a couple of pounds of the ground variety in the morning. When it comes time to cook it up, you might be thinking "OK, we can do burgers. We can do spaghetti squash with meat sauce. We can do chili." All great choices, and fairly easy. But they still take time. Time you might not have.

Instead of stressing yourself out trying to put a recipe together, why not just grab a few of your favorite spices and brown the ground beef in a pan? Steam or roast some veggies, and you're set. You can serve it with various condiments (mustard/ketchup, mayo), you can serve it fiesta-style with salsa and avocado, you can serve it with a fried egg on top or, well, anything you like. Time commitment: 20 minutes max. I use this trick a lot, actually. Its kinda like the paleo version of pasta with herbs and olive oil -- one of our quick, go-to meals of the past -- only much healthier!

Another idea: canned tuna. Last night at 6pm, I realized that my flank steak was still frozen so I had to improvise. I quickly whipped up some paleo mayo and opened two cans of tuna plus a can of olives. Then, I roasted some bell peppers. The result: tuna salad served in cute little bell pepper boats. Yum! And it took no time at all. So easy. I guess what it all boils down to is changing your idea of what makes a meal. A meal doesn't always need to contain a main course, a side and a salad and it doesn't have to be sensational. All it really needs is some quality protein and fat plus a few veggies ... good fuel for your body.

How do you get dinner on the table quickly on busy nights?

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