I have officially entered a Chicago Winter Cooking Rut. Since New Year's Day, everything I have cooked for dinner that hasn't come from a blue box claiming it's "the cheesiest!" has gotten less than stellar reviews. It's beginning to affect my self esteem. And since deep down inside I'm really a quitter, it's hard for me to keep going.
I dug out my copy of Saving Dinner by Leanne Ely. I decided that I'm spending too much time thinking about what I should cook. All this effort on my part: finding a recipe, shopping, washing and cleaning vegetables, chopping, cooking, ducking the rotten tomatoes thrown my way after the meal has been eaten and rejected, then cleaning up the kitchen afterwards. It just doesn't seem worth it.
I needed help.
Saving Dinner is divided up by seasons. Each season has eight weeks. Each week includes recipes and a weekly shopping list for 6 meals (with the assumption that every family orders pizza in one night a week). This seemed like a no brainer plan that I could work with.
After I went to the store and bought groceries for this week's dinners, I got started on tonight's meal.
This is how the cooking went:
I chopped the butternut squash into 5 very uneven pieces. I hate to cut squash because I care more about my knives than I do the squash and therefore do a very poor job. I rubbed olive oil on the pieces and put them in the oven for 40 minutes at 400 degrees. After they came out of the oven soft and steaming hot, I scooped out the flesh and mixed it with maple syrup.
The broccolli was simply chopped and steamed with chicken stock, butter and sea salt in the microwave for 4 minutes.
Tonight's chicken recipe sent me to drink (good thing I had to open a bottle of wine to make it).
The chicken came out so bland, I used BBQ sauce when I ate it but my children loved it. For them, the blander the better. The potatoes and onions, per the recipe, were barely cooked. I ended up cooking them much longer and burned my pan. It did help them taste better. The spinach was warm raw spinach. Bleh.
Here is the recipe from Saving Dinner by Leanne Ely, revised by me so you might be more successful:
Skillet Chicken with Spinach
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (I used 3)
2 onions, chopped
1 pound red potatoes, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup white wine
1 teaspoon thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cups of spinach
I pound my chicken breasts (between 2 pieces of wax paper) so they are the same thickness all over. That way they cook faster and more evenly.
In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add chicken and cook until browned on both sides. Add onions, potatoes, chicken broth, wine, thyme and lots of salt and pepper. Lower heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until chicken in cooked. Remove chicken to a plate and cover. Add the spinach to the potatoes and onions, turn the heat up and cover. Let cook another 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Check on the potatoes (not your children and their Webkinz like me!) to make sure they don't burn.
In the end, my 7 yr old Diva ate everything but the squash and onions (she actually begged for broccolli so she wouldn't have to eat the squash), my almost 5 yr old Chicken Patty lover had to do everything her big sister did (extra broccoli, no squash please) and she loved the chicken with ketchup. We told my 2 year old Squirt that the squash was called fargen. He said, "Mmmm" and ate it up but wouldn't touch the potatoes or chicken and only ate the broccoli off his father's plate.
Tomorrow night I'm making Cube Stead Stroganoff. Wish me luck.