Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Simple Dinners for Busy Days


Although life seems to have eased up a bit now that our twin babies are, well, 15 months old tomorrow, the pace has begun to ramp up. Most days I feel like a sheep dog herding cattle. For example, the other day I was out for a morning walk with the boys while the girls were in school. The boys really enjoy walking for part of it and if were up to Sam, he would walk for miles without stopping. As we neared the duck pond on a wooded trail near our house the boys began to merge onto the trail that leads down to it.

I stop the baby jogger and round them up like two footballs under each arm. Back on the trail again, I walk behind them and keep them on track until we are past the pond.

I feel like we are finally beginning to get back into a rhythm. As life changes, we are constantly adjusting to find our center, then it changes again and a new center needs to be attained. I think it took me at least a year since the boys were born to begin to regain my center.

Now, life happens once again. Driving children to and fro. Play dates, outings, family meals....life. Wonderful life!

Yesterday I barely had a chance to sit down let alone think about what I was going to make for dinner. Tom left for Seattle early in the morning and didn't get back until we had just finished dinner. After I dropped the girls off at school in the morning I went to the gym to workout. Feeling good, I decided to try a class I had not done before. Body Combat. OK, the name says it all. I usually do the yoga-type classes and so felt somewhat like a klutz in this one. But hey, I did it.

A sauna, a shower, and an errand later, Grace gets picked up from preschool. Home, lunch, boys nap, wrap Lily's birthday presents (she turns 7 tomorrow), pick Lily up from school. Home, nurse the boys, sit down with the kids for a little while.

5pm. Time to make dinner. But what and quick? The kids are hungry. Two minutes later I have a plan.

Chicken & Vegetable Stew with Biscuits.

My mom used to make Chicken and Dumplings or Chicken Pot Pie quite often as we were growing up. She always cooked from scratch and made balanced meals for us. Not only were her meals balanced but they tasted good! Those flavors still linger with me to this day. This stew is somewhat a reflection of her chicken pot pie filling.

A few days ago I cooked a whole chicken on the stove to make chicken noodle soup. There was plenty of meat already in the soup when I began to pull the breast meat from the bones so I decided to save it for something else.

I almost always have carrots and celery in the fridge and potatoes and onions in the pantry. If you have chicken or vegetable stock, a little arrowroot powder, and some salt and herbs on hand you are good to go.

From start to finish the whole meal took me 30 minutes to prepare and cook. We were sitting down and eating dinner by 5:30pm! Now I know most of you work or are busy stay-at-home moms that could appreciate a meal like this. A very similar recipe also appears in our cookbook on page 285. We served the stew with some gluten-free, dairy-free biscuits made with sorghum flour.

The nice thing about adding the cooked chicken at the end is that this meal can also be made vegan. (Like for Tom who has been vegan now for 28 years!) I took some out before adding the chicken. You could easily stir in a little bit of cooked beans if desired. Tom had it with a large scoop of leftover cooked quinoa.



Easy Gluten-Free Chicken Stew

You can vary the vegetables and amounts of each to suit your own needs. This recipe isn't finicky, it works just about any way you do it. I only had russet potatoes on hand when I made this but red or yellow potatoes would work also, in fact they hold together better in this stew.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 to 4 stalks celery, chopped
4 to 5 carrots, chopped
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 to 3 teaspoons dried thyme
2 to 3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 cups stock (chicken or vegetable -- I used veggie here)
2 to 4 tablespoons arrowroot powder (depending on how thick you like it)
1 cup frozen peas
3 or so cups chopped cooked chicken breast (or 2 to 3 cups cooked beans)
large handful fresh parsley, chopped
sea salt or Herbamare
black pepper

Heat a large 11-inch skillet over medium heat and add olive oil. Add diced onions and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Then add carrots, celery, potatoes; sauté a minute more. Add garlic and thyme.

Combine the stock and arrowroot powder and whisk well. Add this mixture to the pan, cover and simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Add peas, cooked chicken, and parsley, cover and simmer 5 or so more minutes or until veggies are cooked to your liking. Add sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.

Enjoy!!

Interested in more quick meal ideas? You can check out our Lentil Noodle Soup, Breakfast Quinoa with Cinnamon Apple Topping, or our Bean and Rice Breakfast Bowls with a Spicy Avocado Sauce.

Now, I am curious, what do you like to prepare for dinner that is easy and quick?

14 comments:

  1. That looks great! Yes, chicken pot pie filling is very comforting so emulating it in soup is a wonderful idea. :-)

    Quick dinners at our house can be tacos, tuna melts for DH (tuna salad over salad greens for me), any kind of hash (basically homemade hash browns with other goodies added, usually a leftover meat, green onions, etc.), grilled fish with brown rice and veggies, etc. I'd say most meals at our house are actually quick meals.

    I am imagining you with the twins under your arms. LOL Glad you got in a fun workout. We, adults, need to exercise like toddlers exercise ... totally for fun, they could care less what they look like. ;-) Happy BD to Lily!

    Shirley

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  2. Ohh I have been craving chicken stew-thanks for the quick version w/ the vegan option too!

    I think my quickest dinner of late is that I wash and poke a few yams and cook them in the toaster oven. I go do something else, and then I steam some broccoli and warm some nut burgers (I make double batches of these.) I start this about an hour ahead-but I am only in the kitchen for about 15 minutes max. If I can be in the kitchen a few more minutes we have salad with it also. For an easy dessert I take a scoop of coconut milk ice cream and top it with some chopped nuts and frozen fruit and a drizzle of maple syrup. It makes a little sundae and I eat less ice cream this way ;) I can not wait to read other ideas!

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  3. Wow, I can't believe Tom has been vegan for that long. This is a good idea for an easy dinner. I bet garbanzo beans go well here. For us, fried tofu or tempeh with a few vegetables and maybe millet or quinoa is a stand by. I will make the more complicated meals when we have friends or family in town or for a weekend meal. Thanks for the recipe.

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  4. This has ingredients that I always have on hand and puts together so quickly. Thanks for the great recipe!

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  5. I love this recipe from your book. We make it all the time! I am glad you shared an alternate version on making it. This is a great idea to use beans in place of chicken for my vegetarian friends.

    Do you ever use sweet rice flour to thicken things instead of arrowroot?

    Thanks Again. ~J

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  6. I've discovered a yummy, quick dinner from Epicurious -- make your own beans and rice. Set out cooked rice, warmed black beans, roasted little cubes of sweet potato, toasted/salted raw (green) pumpkin seeds, pico de gallo, and lime wedges. Let people assemble their own combo. It's much more delicious than it might sound like!

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  7. Ode to comfort food, sometimes one just needs it! The stew looks mighty good.

    I cook 4 or 5 healthy gluten-free main dish meals on Sunday while my husband cares for our children. I pack them into containers and put them in the freezer and fridge for the week. By doing this and freezing some I always have a variety of meals to choose from that can be popped into the oven or heated on the stove.

    The easy meal of rice pasta and sauce is another option for those crazy evenings!

    Thanks for all of the great recipes, I enjoy reading your blog!

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  8. Happy Birthday to Lily! Seven is a magical year, I remember it with my daughter as if it were yesterday. It goes by so quickly, savor each and every moment.

    My weeknight meals are fairly simple: salad with chicken or salad with beans and a slice of bread. My kids are all out of the house now so it is certainly different than it was back then.

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  9. Shirley - You always seem to make such great use of your leftovers. Thanks for your meal ideas!

    Jenna - Yams are a favorite food of mine and so easy to prepare -I like your way of doing it. Thanks.

    David D. - Yes Tom has been vegan for a long time, I was uncertain when I posted and then I realized it has been 28 yrs, not 27! Time flies! Thanks for your quick dinner ideas.

    Gluten-Free Dish - These ingredients are always stocked in my kitchen too. Makes cooking much easier!

    Jacqueline - Yes I do use sweet rice flour on occasion for thickening. I am in the habit of arrowroot. I do use it on occasion to thicken gravy - it only takes a little.

    Anon - Thanks for sharing your meal idea - that sounds yummy! We do something like that too; just have not done it with the pumpkin seeds. I will add that next time.

    yogamama - You sound very organized! Wow! Thanks so much for sharing what works for your family.

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  10. Joyce - You comment came in while I was replying to the other comments. Thanks for sharing your quick dinners. Lily had a fun B-day, thanks for the birthday wish!

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  11. That chicken soup sounds great. But, how do you make the Sorghum Dumplings? I made dumplings a couple days ago by adding sorghum to my rice flour blend mix (rice flour, potato starch, tapioca starch), but I wasn't totally happy with them. I was wondering what other flours you used with the sorghum.
    I like dumplings with baked chicken. I bake a chicken in a closed casserole with onions and celery for several hours, because we like it when it just falls off the bone. It creates a lot of liquid, to which I add more stock and then cook dumplings in the stock. I'm sure I could put carrots and potatoes with the chicken, but usually we make a vegetable on the side.
    Mo

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  12. This looks so good. I love soup even in the summer. Some day I get to making biscuits. If I lived near by I'd be knocking on your door. So how do you get so much done with so many little feet around? You're amazing!

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  13. Mo - Your slow cooked chicken sounds yummy! I simmer mine on the stove for about 2 hours until the meat is very tender. I made the biscuits with sorghum flour, tapioca flour, and potato starch. Most of it is sorghum to keep them nutritious. They were delicious and flakey like biscuits should be! I didn't try cooking them as dumplings, I may do that next time. Thanks for your ideas!

    Diane - Yeah, I am sure if we lived closer we would be having plenty of dinner parties together! The kids are great at dinner time (for the most part), they have always known me cooking and so keep themselves busy during that time (helping me or playing). If someone isn't happy, Tom usually steps in.

    -Ali :)

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  14. Yum! Any idea if this freezes well?

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Thanks, and as always, Happy Cooking! Ali & Tom