Back in one of my other lives, I looked forward eagerly to the beginning days of the new school year. I was a teacher, then, and couldn’t wait to meet my new batch of students. My own kids, of course, were moaning and groaning about having to give up their too short summertime fun and put on those stiff new “back-to-school” shoes and clothes.
My only problem with school starting each fall was re-adjusting, once again, to being a working mom.
During my growing-up years, my mother was a stay-at-home mom, as most were then, and she devoted herself totally to taking care of my dad, four kids and our home. Every evening, the entire family sat down to a home cooked meal, no exceptions unless someone was ill. I had no idea until I began teaching, after my own two kids were in school, what it would take to keep us all fed, clean, clothed and on time for various activities, while also putting in an eight-hour day at work. It was during those years that I became addicted to late night movies, folding laundry and/or ironing while I watched Clark Gable, Cary Grant and Gary Cooper charm an assortment of leading ladies.
Today, two-income families are the norm; stay-at-home moms are rare, and keeping up with school activities, after-school activities, music/dance/lessons, athletic events, etc. requires almost Herculean effort from both parents. Add to this the pressure of being told how important it is to eat well, share at least one meal together every day, stay away from fast foods, spend time talking with and listening to your kids, monitoring their online activities, and, by the way, be sure to find some time just for yourself and don’t forget some “intimate time” alone with your mate. Oh, sure.
So, when it’s time to prepare for back-to-school, I suspect it’s with mixed feelings that working parents count down the days until the bell rings and the hectic scheduling begins. It’s easy for me to say I miss the smell of the classroom, the packed days and busy evenings, and I do, but being a working parent is, in fact, much more difficult now, I think, and I don’t envy those of you who are.
Good luck to all of you; teachers, working parents and back-to-school students. May your coming school year be a positive, good one.
Perhaps I can be of some assistance to working parents; I do have a big, fat file of recipes for quick and easy but tasty and healthy dishes. And yes, they have kid appeal, as well.
ONE PAN, ONE HOUR CHICKEN DINNER
4 Roma tomatoes, quartered lengthwise
1 med.-size zucchini
1 med. sweet onion, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 small eggplant, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 yellow bell pepper (or green or red), cut into 1-inch chunks
3 T. seasoned oil (see below)
Salt and pepper, to taste
8 chicken thighs, bone in-skin on
Crumbled cheese of choice (goat cheese works well)
Line a baking sheet with foil; coat with nonstick spray.
In a small bowl, whisk together 3 T. balsamic vinegar, 2 T. olive oil, 2 T. minced garlic, 2 T. chopped fresh thyme (or 1 T. dried), 1 t. kosher salt and ½ t. black pepper; set aside.
Combine all the vegetables in a large bowl and toss with 3 T. of the balsamic oil mixture. Arrange the vegetables on one side of the prepared baking pan.
Toss the chicken with the remaining balsamic oil mixture and arrange on the other end of the baking pan. Season everything with salt and pepper. Roast in a preheated 425 degree oven about 45 min., or until you’re sure the chicken is done. Top the vegetables with cheese; serve. Serves 4.
Note: You can substitute whatever fresh vegetables your family prefers, such as carrot chunks, diced squash, fresh green beans, etc.
I love one pan meals that don’t taste as though you’ve thrown anything you could come up with in the pan. This next recipe is vegetarian, but you could always brown up a bit of sausage to add, or dice up any leftover ham or ground beef, if you’re family needs the “meat.”
TOMATO BEAN & PASTA SKILLET SUPPER
2 t. olive oil
2 cups chopped tomato
2-4 garlic cloves, minced (to your taste)
3 cups hot cooked angel hair pasta (about 6 oz. uncooked)
½ cup chopped fresh basil
½ t. salt
¼ t. pepper
1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans), drained
½ cup grated Asiago cheese
2 T. balsamic vinegar
Basil sprigs, for garnish if desired
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over med.-high heat. Add tomato and garlic; sauté 2 min. Add pasta, basil, salt, pepper and chickpeas; cook 2 min. Place mixture in a bowl; stir in cheese
and vinegar and garnish with basil, if desired. Serve, with a tossed green or fruit salad. Serves 4.
When just getting a not-fast-food meal on the table is difficult enough, thinking about a “healthy” dessert is probably the last thing on your list. This dessert, however, takes next to no time to put together, once you’ve put the ingredients on your shopping list and in the ‘fridge. Kids love this and it easily takes care of that “eat fresh fruit daily” requirement.
FRUIT SALAD DESSERT
1 T. unsalted butter
4 slices of purchased pound cake, ½-inch thick
1 T. sugar
¼ cup plain yogurt (I prefer Greek; use your favorite)
1 T. honey
2 bananas, quartered
½ pint fresh strawberries, stemmed and halved
½ cup pineapple chunks, preferably fresh
¼ cup blueberries (more, if desired)
1. Melt butter in a skillet over med.-high heat. Add cake slices and sauté until browned, about 1 min. Flip and sprinkle browned side with sugar. Sauté additional 30 seconds, or until browned on the other side. Remove from pan and cut into “croutons.” Set aside.
2. Whisk together the yogurt and honey (that’s why I prefer Greek yogurt; it’s perfect with a drizzle of honey); set aside.
3. Place two slices of banana on a salad/dessert plate (the bananas will keep the smaller fruit from sliding around). Divide and place the remaining fruit on top of the bananas along with equal amounts of the croutons. Drizzle each with the yogurt mixture and serve. Serves 4.